Undergraduate Major and University: Chemical Engineering at Clemson University
How did you become interested in Chemical Engineering? I first became interested in ChemE my freshman year in high school. I had an eccentric physical science teacher that joked: with a degree in chemical engineering you can work in many different industries and make lots of money; with a degree in chemistry you can be a teacher and get lots of free coffee in the teachers' lounge.
Why did you decide to do your PhD here at UW? I decided to do my Ph.D. here at UW for a number of reasons. The ChemE department here at UW is one of the best in the country, particularly in material science and photonics, which is the research that most interests me. Originally being from South Carolina, I also wanted to live somewhere that was culturally less.. conservative. Seattle is an incredible, progressive city with both a vivacious metropolitan lifestyle and a national park in almost every direction out of the city. Finally, I would say it was the culture of the department and graduate students on the recruiting weekend that got me to come here. Everyone is just so friendly. I have been very involved with the Association of Chemical Engineering Graduate Students (ACES). I was the social chair and president of the organization and enjoyed coordinating many events such as the recruit weekend BBQ and outreach to local high schools.
Describe an interesting opportunity you've had through UW ChemE. During my first couple years in the program, my research group and BASF (the German-based chemical company) collaborated on developing and improving a proprietary solution processing technique to make Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4 solar cells. In the course of my research, I discovered a way to significantly improve the device efficiency using this process. After this development, BASF flew me their research facility outside of Bonn, Germany to work with their research scientists for a week to improve their device fabrication procedure. This was an incredible opportunity and I gained a lot of insight into how research works inside of a large company like BASF. (Plus I spent a couple weeks traveling around Germany afterward!)
What advice do you have for students considering graduate study in ChemE?
I would advise new students to consider the whole package when deciding on a graduate program. Try to find a program where both multiple advisor's projects interest you and the location is somewhere new and interesting. This is an opportunity to live somewhere completely different for 5(ish) years; take advantage of that!