Five Questions with Alumnus Chris Musto

By Lauren Haggett, University Communications

From studying chemistry in the labs at UWF to testing fireworks and children’s toys for safety for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Chris Musto, B.S. ’06, has gone far since he graduated from UWF. Musto earned his degree in chemistry and now works for the CPSC in Washington D.C. as a chemist. He said he is especially thankful for the encouragement he received from his instructors at UWF that pushed him to continue on with his education and pursue his doctorate degree at the University of Illinois.

Q. What did you do after you graduated from UWF in 2006?

A. I had always known I was going to get my bachelor’s degree, but I assumed I would just get a job once I graduated and that would be it for my education for a while. It was the faculty at UWF that told me I had what it took to get to the next level, and encouraged me to give it a shot. I applied to a few different schools with the help of Dr. Michael Huggins in the chemistry department, including the University of Illinois. I never thought I would get in, but I did. I received my doctorate in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 2010. I then landed the job at the CPSC, and here I am today.

Q. As a student at UWF did you ever see yourself working for the CPSC?

A. When I graduated from UWF and got my doctorate, I knew I wanted to go a step further in the public safety realm. I love my job! On one end, I work with children’s products to determine if they have unsafe levels of toxic metals, such as lead, and on the other end, I work with fireworks, testing them to ensure they have all of the necessary safety requirements. We hold a press conference every year around July 4 to show the public some of the safety hazards of fireworks.

Q. How would you say UWF prepared you for where you are today?

A. The undergraduate research I did with Dr. Huggins was probably what got me into the University of Illinois. When I started in 2006, it was the fifth-ranked doctoral program in the country, and I was the first UWF student to attend since the 70s. It was a big deal for me and for the department, and I owe a lot of thanks to the faculty at UWF. Every instructor I had there was phenomenal, and the advising didn’t end when I left. They have been advising me up until my current position with the CPSC.

Q. While you were in Pensacola, did you have a favorite place to hang out or a vivid memory?

A. I went to Gulf Coast Community College (GCC) for my first two years of college and came to UWF for the years 2004 – 06. My fondest memory was working with Dr. Tim Royappa, a UWF professor in the chemistry department. He forced me to work with the woman – who would later become my wife – in chemistry class. He wanted us to work with someone we didn’t know, so he told me to work with the person behind me, which happened to be Renee Rice, now Renee Musto. Renee graduated from UWF with a bachelor’s in biochemistry in 2006 and now she works for a division of the National Institutes of Health. Renee and I were married in Panama City Beach, Fla., in November 2008.

Q. What advice would you give current UWF students?

A. This is advice I am going to pass on that I learned while at UWF from the faculty, don’t undersell yourself. Set goals, and go for them. The worst thing that can happen is somebody says no. Following this advice is how I got to where I am today. I never even thought I would go to UWF from GCC, but it was small goals over time that lead me to the big picture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because you will find someone who will provide you with the answers. Keep a certain amount of humility, because otherwise you may lose touch with reality. I’ve kept a relationship with just about every professor I had at UWF. They helped me so much throughout my college career, and I thank them for that.