The best thing about the Clark School is the quantity of opportunities available - I've had to learn how to turn down opportunities because there are so many to choose from!
Hometown: Houston, TX
Expected grad date: Spring, 2022
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you come from and what sparked your interest in engineering?
I decided to go into engineering because I’m passionate about protecting the environment and making the world a safer place. Growing up in Houston, which is prone to hurricanes and flooding, I had a firsthand look at the effects of climate change on my community. Throughout high school, I worked at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where I became familiar with the Texas Wildlife and Coastal Ecology exhibit. These experiences pushed me to enter the field of engineering because I wanted to learn how to solve problems.
Neither of my parents are engineers, but they always encouraged me to work towards my own goals. I also have many strong women in my family, and my mother and grandmother are my biggest role models!
So, why did you choose to study at Maryland?
When the time came for me to apply to college, I already knew that I wanted to study materials science. My state school didn’t offer the major for undergraduates, so I decided to visit UMD. I shadowed an engineering student for the day, and he introduced me to some of his favorite professors in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). I loved the tight-knit feel of the MSE community, and I knew that I would have the opportunity to get involved in research as an undergraduate. In addition, I wanted to go to school in the D.C. area so that I would be able to intern at a national lab.
You said you already knew that you wanted to focus on materials science - how did you initially hear about MSE and what prompted you to declare it as your major?
When I was in high school, I took a summer class that used chocolate to demonstrate the main concepts of materials science. When I signed up for the course, I didn’t know anything about MSE. I just wanted to learn how to 3D print with chocolate, but I left the class with a new appreciation for materials science. In particular, I liked its interdisciplinary nature, which would prepare me problem solve before 'problems' even exist. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do post-graduation, so I was looking for a major that would allow me to study many different areas of science.
Have you conducted any research, either on or off campus?
On campus, I work in Dr. Al-Sheikhly’s Lab for Radiation and Polymer Science. I have been part of a few projects over the past two years, but my favorite one involved the microbial degradation of carbon steel in oil pipelines. I am also on Team Produce within the Gemstone Honors Program, where we are working to develop a biodegradable packaging material that increases shelf life of food; we have partnered with NIST to use their electron beam accelerator.
The summer after my freshman year, I participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of Houston. I worked in the Shaffer Lab to study polyamide thin films for water filtration. This summer, I was accepted to the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program at NIST to continue my work on films for water filtration, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.
What is the best thing about your experience on campus thus far? Any challenges you've had to overcome?
The best thing about my experience in the Clark School has been the sheer quantity of opportunities available to me. Before coming to college, I underestimated the benefits of attending a larger school for engineering. Not only do we have the resources and funding to participate in national competitions and challenges, we also have enough spots for everyone to be involved in something. I have actually had to learn how to turn down opportunities because there are so many to choose from!
A challenge that I’ve had to overcome is being an out-of-state student. When I first got to UMD, I didn’t know a single person, so I had to start completely from scratch to meet new friends. Being in Gemstone and in MSE helped me a great deal because they’re both great communities that make the university feel smaller.
When you’re not in class, how do you spend your time?
I am a Clark School Ambassador and I really enjoy giving campus tours. In addition, I belong to Theta Tau, the co-ed professional engineering fraternity on campus. I love spending time with my brothers, even if we’re just doing homework in the STEM library. As one of the Professional Development Chairs, I help organize company talks, resume critiques, and study sessions for my fraternity. I’m also on the executive board for the Materials Engineering Society, MatES, where I plan social and outreach events for students in the department. When I’m not in a club meeting, I love to sing and play my ukulele or just spend time with my friends.
Do you have any post-commencement plans?
After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in Materials Engineering. I’m not sure whether I want to stay in academia or work in industry, but I would definitely enjoy working at a national lab like NIST. I really want to work on projects that benefit the environment and promote sustainable development.
So, do you have any advice for incoming students?
I try to treat college like a regular day job, meaning that from 9 am to 5 pm, I go to classes and do my homework. Then, in the evenings, I have free time to relax and be with my friends, go to the gym, and make dinner. Planning my schedule like this doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it helps me stay motivated!
Another great piece of advice I have received is that if you’re uncertain about your major, look at the schedule of classes and think about which ones you would be most excited to take. Then, find the major that fits those classes, not the other way around.
Apart from being an engineer, any other future plans?
I want to travel to as many places as I can, and hopefully live in another country for a few years!