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Contributed photo by Kaitlyn Hitch / Madison, left, and Kaitlyn Hitch ride together to UTC, where they both major in chemistry.

If anybody understands the chemistry that binds identical twins, it should be Kaitlyn and Madison Hitch.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga chemistry majors, who take all the same classes for convenience and mutual support, face a fork in the road with college graduation looming in December.

The Bradley County sisters have been virtually inseparable for 22 years, yet both of them know that the time may soon come when they go their separate ways.

They are braced for the split — but they also embrace the possibilities of life after college.

"I would not be who I am without her," said Kaitlyn Hitch of her twin sister, Madison. "She's always been there. We've been best friends since birth."

"It's like having a built-in best friend that goes through every step of life [with you] and understands what you are going through," said Madison.

Reinforcing that bond has been a lock-step college experience. The two share an interest in math and science — it runs in the family, apparently, an uncle is a chemist — and so the Hitch sisters both decided to major in chemistry at UTC. They hope to use their bachelor of science degrees to look for work after they graduate.

The twins have taken every college class together, and they believe the saying "two heads are better than one."

"[To study] we usually get on the floor and go through our notes together," says Kaitlyn.

"It's good because in one area I might be able to explain something, and in another area she might," said Madison. "We can fill in gaps that way."

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Kaitlyn Hitch, left, and her twin sister, Madison, work together on a lab assignment at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The two Bradley County twins hope to graduate in December. / Photo by Gretchen Potts, contributed by UTC.

Because they share the same major — and also the same car for commuting to Chattanooga from Bradley County — the two have identical class schedules. Even with COVID-19 restrictions on in-person courses, they have some STEM labs that they must attend together on the UTC campus.

Still, the college experience has also meant embracing the differences in their personalities. Madison is more serious and bookish, the sisters say, while Kaitlyn is more light-hearted.

"Kaitlyn is more creative than I am," said Madison. "I like reading, and she doesn't. And she's a lot funnier than I am."

"She's more serious, and I'm more sarcastic," Kaitlyn says of her twin. "I like romance movies and she's into science fiction."

Even their tastes in food are different.

"She [Kaitlyn] loves salsa, and I cannot stand it," said Madison.

In high school the sisters, who attended Bradley Central High, said they felt lumped together. Most classmates thought of them as the "Hitch twins" not separate people, they said.

People who know them have always understood their differences, though. And if you scratch the surface, the sisters even sound like they will welcome having a little more independence after college.

"It [separating] is not a source of anxiety," said Madison. "I know she will always have my back even if we are not always at the same step in life.

"... It's frustrating sometimes when people view you as being part of a whole rather than an individual. We are different people and our family and friends totally get that."

As budding chemists, the twins must also know that even the two hydrogen atoms in a molecule of water need a little oxygen.

To suggest a human interest story for this column contact Mark Kennedy at

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo