Carnegie Mellon University

Stephanie Sydlik

Stephanie Sydlik (S 2007)

Chemistry major, world champion rower, Judith Resnik Award winner


Synthesizing plastics that conduct electricity

Stefanie Sydlik is no stranger to conducting cutting-edge research projects. As a sophomore chemistry major, she joined Rick McCullough’s lab and spent the next few years synthesizing random copolymers of regioregular polythiophene — a plastic that conducts, rather then impedes, electricity. Discovered by McCullough, regioregular polythiophenes promise to reduce costs and improve product quality for applications like touch panels, printed electronics, organic light-emitting diodes, chemical sensors and solar cells. Sydlik prepared several new conducting polymers and, more impressively, she measured very high electrical conductivities for some of her random copolymers.

“It’s almost unheard of to have an undergraduate make this kind of research progress in such a short period of time,” said McCullough, professor of chemistry and Vice President of Research at Carnegie Mellon.

Sydlik’s research accomplishments were recognized in 2006 when she was selected as a Beckman Scholar, a program established by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to help stimulate, encourage and support research activities by exceptionally talented undergraduate students. In 2007, she received the Judith Resnik Award, which honors Carnegie Mellon alumna and space shuttle Challenger astronaut Dr. Judith A. Resnik. It is presented annually to an outstanding woman graduating in the sciences or engineering who plans to attend graduate school and whose academic performance, creativity and vision illustrates potential for high academic achievement in her field.

While a student at Carnegie Mellon, Sydlik was engaged in significant ways with the campus community. She worked for Academic Development as a supplemental instructor or tutor, and she was an active member of the Greek community as a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority, where she took on positions of leadership in some major philanthropic efforts, such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. During her sophomore year she joined the crew team and was elected captain of the novice team. Sydlik recently competed in the 2009 World Rowing Championships in Poznan, Poland. She won a bronze medal as a member of the Lightweight Women's Quadruple Sculls crew.

Sydlik is pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry as a first-year graduate student at MIT, where she will continue working in the field of conducting polymers.