By Walter Hickey
__I met with TJ Wallin the day after the College of William and Mary Rowing Club’s Colonial ergathon. The former rowing club president, Jersey shore lifeguard and avid dog lover arrived with skateboard in tow, ready to talk about chemistry research, the role of rowing in his life, and the truth behind “Jersey Shore.”__
*What research have you been doing?*
I chose the unusual path of being both a physics and chemistry major. With chemistry I do research with professor [Gary] DeFotis researching rare turnery insulating magnets, and with physics I do research with professor [Hannes] Schniepp in applied science. I’m looking to go to grad school for material science and engineering.
*Do you know where you’re going?*
I’m applying out west to schools in California. I’ve got family over there and [want] to change things up.
*That’s a far stretch from the Jersey shore.*
I’m from Philadelphia originally, but I’ve spent every summer down at the Jersey shore — before the TV show, of course. I spent most of my time in an Irish community and, while we did have some personalities, the ones on the show are a little exaggerated. Not by much. But a little exaggerated. Mainly, I don’t think you’d find a group of all of them at once, but there’s one kid in every group.
*So you enjoyed being at the shore?*
After my freshman year, me and a couple friends I rowed with in high school decided to get a shore house, and that’s when I really came into my own and got a lot of good stories. I worked as a lifeguard at North Wildwood beach for a couple years; it’s the best job ever. Just having a ton of fun with your friends, working out, and saving lives.
*So you rowed in high school. What was it like continuing that here?*
I turned down going to more established programs to come to William and Mary, thinking I wasn’t really going to row when I got here, but of course I fell in with the program here and I was president for two years and really got involved with that, and I’m really proud of what happened with that program.
*What rowing achievements are you most proud of?*
My freshman year I was part of the first William and Mary men’s boat to final at Dad Vails, which is the biggest intercollegiate regatta in the country. We went on to actually medal in the lightweight four-man boat, and it was some of the most fun I ever had racing. Last year over spring break we built a dock, then later we held our own regatta, and right now we’re working towards a boathouse. But as a whole, the team — with numbers, competitiveness, coaching staff and executive board — has really improved things.
*Anything recent with rowing?*
We had the ergathon [last week], an indoor race on rowing machines. We hosted [Virginia Commonwealth University], [North Carolina] State, Duke and Liberty. I was just coming off being sick, and I went off a little too hard, hit the wall … but I still came close to a personal record, and the team did really well. My sister came and took a video and you can see right in the video … where I hit the wall.
*What mistakes have you made at the College?*
Biggest mistake I think I made in college was being in a long-distance relationship my freshman year. I think everyone falls for that trap and I understand why, because you’re not safe with a new environment and things. But luckily for me I had a chance this past year to enjoy the college lifestyle.
*Do you have any favorite off-campus locations?*
I like Chickahominy Riverfront Park. Not many people know about it — it’s secluded and it’s a great place to go work out. On another note, I’m a fan of Paul’s. It’s got a great atmosphere and I just like hanging out in there.
*Where do you see yourself going with the material sciences?*
I came to William and Mary because I wanted a liberal arts education, and now … I feel like I want something more concrete with an engineering degree so material science satisfies both my chemistry and physics curiosities and puts it into something very practical.
*Any other plans for after college?*
I really like dogs, and I’m going to breed them when I graduate. My dog’s awesome — I have a rare red lab. He’s usually my profile picture. And my valentine.
*Anything else you want to add?*
I hate cats.
__While finishing up the final months of his college career, TJ is focusing on completing his bucket list and spending time with his friends. He hopes to continue his scientific career in graduate school studying engineering.__