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Alumna Talks Science, Whiskey and Advice for Students

Alumna Talks Science, Whiskey and Advice for Students
Amanda Swift graduated in 2007 from The University of Texas at Austin with a BS in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.​ We sat down with her and her husband Nick to hear how they're doing and what they've been up to since graduation. They say it all started over dinner, that is, their plan to create the best single malt whiskey ever tasted, a pursuit for which a science education turns out to come in handy. In 2012, they launched Swift Distillery and have "searched the world over" for barrels in order to bring their dream to Central Texas. 

Did your college degree translate into your current business?

Very much so. I spent a lot of time at the Brackenridge Field Lab. Learning how to maintain and interpret data has been incredibly helpful. There's a lot of testing involved in our business – we have a data sheet on everything. The safety procedures were helpful in getting our distillery in place, too.

Plus, I got really good working on a shoestring budget. In my experience, most labs don't have a surplus of funds, so I learned to make things myself or just make it work.

While in school, is this business something you imagined yourself doing?

Not at all. He was in grad school and I was working long hours. To spend time together, we would cook dinner and drink good wine. After a while, we switched to Scotch and the career conversations started to shift – we wanted to see what we could do together. We wondered if we could make a really good product that we love – and we really like good whiskey. We went to Ireland for vacation and went to the Guinness Beer Tour. With all the beautiful things to see and do there, we really liked this tour. We kept talking about it! One thing led to another and eventually Swift was born.

Do you see a common thread in your journey, so far?

Yes. He's the artist, I'm the scientist, and we both like to be outside and work with our hands – our childhood and college experiences reflect that. We don't want to sit at a desk all day, so coming together with our knowledge and experience has been really great. I'm thankful for my time at UT because it helped shape some of the inner workings of our distillery.

Do you have a life motto?

I really like Einstein's quote, "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." There's a simplicity and purity in our whiskey that I find interesting.

Students tend to wonder what they can do with their degrees. What would you tell a student about their science degree from UT?

Science classes are helpful and will teach you practical, thinking skills. Learning how to do the scientific process of testing things – thinking logically, going from point A to point B – is extremely helpful. A science degree is practical, good and applicable for lots of jobs.

My mom has a saying: "There are those who know which hill to take and those who know how to take the hill."

Science is usually how to take the hill.

Any advice for the graduating seniors from our college?

Take the opportunity as it presents itself. In terms of a job right out of college, take the job and see where it takes you. You might be surprised at what you find.

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Saturday, 25 March 2023

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