LEXINGTON, Ky. – A Morehead man knew he belonged at the University of Kentucky ever since he was a boy.

It is not about how you start for Stuart Lichtenberg. It’s all about how he finished. On Friday, he will not only have graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree, but also a Ph.D.

“If you had told 12 year old me that I was going to actually do it and go all the way and be working in the lab, he’d probably be pretty excited about that sort of thing,” said Lichtenberg.

Lichtenberg failed out of college his first time. He said there were many reasons, but he wasn’t able to find a specific subject he was passionate about.

After he left UK, the first time, Lichtenberg experimented with other opportunities including stops in retail, a hospital job, and a few other jobs across a few different states.

Those years helped motivated him to return to school and find his calling.

“I needed to come back,” said Lichtenberg. “I needed to do something else. I needed something that was more satisfying.”

He received support both with wish his loved ones at home and his mentors at UK. This time around he felt a connection to agricultural biotechnology. His lab focuses on developing safer and more effective pesticides.

“There’s something pretty thrilling about finding out something that nobody has found out before,” he said.

His comeback has opened the door for his next adventure. Lichtenberg has accepted a post-doctoral position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he’ll be studying and tracking chronic wasting disease. His work will be built upon the foundation he created at the University of Kentucky.

Lichtenberg and his wife, Anne, and his family will make the move the start of 2020.

He wants his story to inspire others to preserve and go after whatever makes you happy.

“Don’t quit. Don’t give up,” he said. “There are always things that are going to get in the way. There’s always going to be complications, but you just got to roll with them and keep on going.”

Lichtenberg will graduate with a Ph.D. in integrated plant and soil science from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.