Carnegie Mellon University

Tassie Andersen

Tassie Andersen (S 2011)

Chemistry major, European Studies minor, Ultimate Frisbee player


It's All Material

Tassie Andersen is a young woman who knows what she wants in life — to become a materials engineer, using chemistry to develop real-world technologies.  But, as evidenced by her time at CMU, the senior chemistry major also knows that life is a journey, one where you should take advantage of all opportunities as they come along.

When she enrolled in MCS, Andersen knew that, without a doubt, she wanted to major in chemistry. As a first year student, she dove right in and began working in Assistant Professor Newell Washburn's lab. After three semesters, she decided that she wanted to pursue a different type of chemistry. But, she says the lessons she learned in Washburn's lab were invaluable.

"Professor Washburn is a really great professor. What he did in his lab was interesting, but it wasn't what I was interested in," Andersen said. "But I learned that research is the best way to make any kind of impact as a science student. I learned how a real lab worked and what I was getting myself into."

During her junior year, Andersen worked in the chemistry labs of CMU's Art Conservation Research Center, directed by Research Professor Paul Whitmore. Here she helped to develop a sensor that could detect if paper was degrading. The sensor, which is a small chemical film, turns blue when the cellulose in paper begins to break down and could be a valuable tool for museum curators and archivists.

In the summer between her junior and senior years, Andersen explored even more possibilities in chemistry when she completed an internship with the chemical company Dow Corning. During this internship, Andersen helped to develop a block copolymer that may one day be used for drug delivery. While the type of chemistry she did at Dow was different than what she had done during her student research, she was able to apply what she had learned in Washburn and Whitmore's labs.

"It was different than the chemistry I had done at CMU, because the chemistry Dow Corning was doing wasn't very common," said Andersen. "But, all the techniques I used, I pretty much learned at CMU. I was definitely prepared. If they said, ‘Here's this procedure, go make this material,' I could do it."

In the fall of her senior year, Andersen decided to take some time off from chemistry. She traveled to Denmark to study abroad, completing a minor in European studies while learning about the philosophy of Kierkegaard, Danish culture and the history of European ballet. Her coursework was very different from her chemistry classes, but the experience was just what Andersen was looking for.

"I know what I want, but I don't feel like I need to hurry my way there," Andersen said.

Andersen has accepted a job offer from Dow Corning and plans to return to their Michigan labs after graduation. She'll work in their Life Sciences division where she could be making chemicals that will enhance our lives. Much like her work in the CMU labs, it's not exactly what she ultimately wants to do, but the job should give her great experience in creating materials.

"I'd like to do lab work that's geared towards making things you can hold and see and use every day," she said.

Andersen fully intends to return to school one day to get her doctoral degree, and perhaps have her own lab. She says she's interested in electronics and alternative energy, and would like to work on developing self-sufficient lighting in the future.

But for now, she'll just continue to enjoy the journey and make the best of any experiences it may bring.