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South Carolina Honors College

Ian Bongalonta

Ask me about… Being an RM for the Honors Residence Hall, music performance, or undergraduate research.

Hey there! I am a senior from Goose Creek, SC majoring in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics and Spanish. I’m a Resident Mentor for the Honors Residence Hall, an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, TikTok enthusiast, and proud dog dad. After my undergraduate career, I plan to go to graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry to pursue a career in academia with an emphasis on diversity and social advocacy in the sciences. 

My advice for prospective students: Ask yourself all of the questions. Which school do you often picture yourself at? When you think about graduating with your intended degree, what do you want to see on the diploma? Have you considered geographical and financial feasibility? Once you’ve taken everything into consideration, visit your choices and trust your gut and your heart. 

My advice for current students: You are in the perfect place to be at the perfect time in your life. Opportunity is everywhere you look — take advantage of it while you still can! Take inspiration from your peers and mentors, as everyone is here to help you. You choose the doors you wish to open and the Honors College gives you the keys.  

My favorite thing about the Honors College: The community, hands down. I have felt so welcomed, loved, and supported by my peers, mentors, and faculty throughout my growth as an undergraduate student. Everyone around me has gone the extra mile to nourish my development as a person, scientist, and budding mentor myself.  

My reason for choosing the SCHC: The diversity in backgrounds and experiences and the overwhelming amount of support from your peers and mentors. The Honors College experience is a safe, welcoming home where everyone around you wants to see you succeed. It’s not just a college — it’s a home. 

My hobbies: The Duolingo owl is my best friend. Growing up in a trilingual household, I absolutely love learning new languages and seeing all of the relationships and differences between them. I also love doing origami — it’s amazing what a single square sheet of paper can do! 

Something that makes me laugh: Being on the quiet floors of the Thomas Cooper library. There’s some energy in there that causes my friends and I to giggle uncontrollably whenever we attempt to study together, turning them into not-so-quiet floors (though we’re definitely quieter than when I got dressed in my friend’s seven-foot inflatable dinosaur costume on Halloween and scared people in the quiet group study rooms). Oops! 

Skill I’d like to master: Ice skating and ice dancing! I love to go ice skating and feel like I’m gliding on thin air (well, except for when I fall, of course). I’ve always been inspired by how easily dancers and hockey players can float through the ice and do spins, tricks, and flips like it’s nothing. One day, I want to be able to go to a rink, put my headphones in, and just vibe on the ice! 

Song I could listen to non-stop: I have a really eclectic music taste — orchestral works and hip-hop remixes are my two favorite genres. I guess having played bassoon in symphony orchestras and being obsessed with TikTok has really contributed to it! My friends get really surprised when my car playlist goes from the first movement of Dvorak’s 8th (the most joyful 15 minutes ever written) to Beyonce and Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage Remix. 

Favorite childhood memory: Competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, hands down. Being in Washington with other kids so passionate about language and other things like math and music was a magical experience I (ironically) can’t put into words—it was the week that changed my life forever and put me on the path I travel today. I still keep in touch with the friends I made while I was there, whose aspirations still inspire me every single day.  

I’m motivated by: The differences in quality and accessibility to education in our society. There’s a sobering amount of drive, talent, and passion in our nation’s youth untapped and invisible due to hurdles such as socioeconomic standing. As an underrepresented minority in science, immigrant, and first-generation STEM student, I am grateful for the opportunities that the Honors College has given me and hope to give back to that community in the future. 

My dream job: I want to be a tenure-track professor at a large, public university who mentors my own research group in theoretical chemistry. Diversity is the key which unlocks modern scientific progress and increases its potential to help humanity. As a professor, I wish to establish programs (such as the NSF-REU program I have participated in) which encourage minority representation in science to create an environment of inclusion and a culture of progress. 

Something I will always do: Help people find and use the potential within themselves. Though you may think you know yourself, others may notice great things about you that you’ve never really noticed. I never would have gotten this far if my mentors (both in science and in life) hadn’t nurtured my development, and I hope to give back to the community as an Honors RM and as (hopefully) a professor one day.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.