Alumni Spotlight | May 2014
KU major: Chemical Engineering, Class of 2004
Current occupation: System Engineer
Research mentor while at KU: Susan Stagg-Williams
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: The research goal was to understand the differences in reactivity of various platinum supported catalysts using FTIR as a means of determining carbon monoxide adsorption to the platinum surface. This was to further knowledge of converting CO in syngas to CO2.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: I learned a great deal about the scientific method in practice and was afforded numerous opportunities to discuss and present my research. Speaking on a technical subject is vastly different than simply knowing it.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research?
A: Pick an advisor you get on well with. All research projects will have good days and bad days, but a good advisor makes the bad days bearable and the good days breakthroughs.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: My job currently involves figuring out the issues chemical engineers can solve by using my company's software to have better access to the data. My research experience has helped me to not only present our software's functionality, but also to clearly investigate the potential customer's existing problems at their root, not the surface, thus presenting a more comprehensive picture.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: If you're doing research, you're most likely curious about the world and interested in challenges. Find a job that caters to that, regardless of whether it is exactly what you think you'll be doing. In the long run, that will be much better for you.