Carnegie Mellon University
January 07, 2016

37th annual ChEGSA research symposium

37th annual ChEGSA research symposium


No matter how groundbreaking an engineer’s work may be, its impact will be limited if it never reaches the public’s ears. Often, the very prospect of presenting one’s research can be more daunting than the months and years spent producing it. The Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA) is well aware of this academic stage fright, which is why, each year, members work hard to provide their fellow young engineers with the opportunity to practice their presentation skills through the annual ChEGSA research symposium.

“A big portion of our job that gets taken for granted in the academic world is being able to present your work,” explains chemical engineering doctoral student Jacob Boes. “Every job requires a certain amount of socializing, and this symposium is where we facilitate that for our fellow engineers. You don’t see that at other schools.”

Boes, along with fellow ChemE doctoral students Stephanie Kirby and Justin Weinberg were the chairs and organizers of the annual event, held in October. This was the 37th symposium since its inception in 1979.

The two-day event kicked off with the Dow Chemical Company Keynote Address, given by Dr. Norman J. Wagner, the Robert L. Pigford Chair of Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, titled “The micromechanics of shear thickening fluids and their applications as field-responsive protective materials and shielding for spacecraft and astronauts.”

But the main event began when the students took the podium. Thanks to overwhelming interest, the 2015 symposium featured 27 student presenters. For these students, the day wasn’t just a chance to practice their presenting skills—it was the real deal.

“We had nearly a dozen industry representatives from various companies attend—companies that not only help fund the event, but student research as well,” says Kirby. “We’re giving great talks to a bunch of industrial guests. In the past, we’ve had students offered job interviews on the spot.”

ChEGSA award winners

After a mid-day break on Friday for the PPG Industries Poster Session and the last of the day’s presentations, the judges decided on the event’s graduate student award winners. The Symposium Awards went to Blake Bleier and Amy Stetten, with honorable mentions going to Benjamin Yezer and Javier Lanauze. The Geoffrey D. Parfitt Memorial Award was given to Qi Zhang, and the Gary Powers Poster Award, named for the late professor of chemical engineering, was awarded to Khalid Hajj.

While the symposium is designed to help Carnegie Mellon chemical engineering graduate students prepare for their futures, it has a lot to say about their present.

“Ultimately, I came to Carnegie Mellon because there is such a good community among the chemical engineers here,” says Boes. “A lot of other departments don’t have that, so I wanted to give back to that community as soon as I got here.”