The Class of 2018: Where are they headed?

Congratulations to the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering graduates of the 2017-2018 academic year! After a college career full of successes and accomplishments, our graduates are headed all over the world to put their degrees to the test. Here are the college experiences of a few Texas ChE graduates and their plans for the future.


JUSTIN ZHONGJustin Zhong in front of UT Tower.

Hometown: Plano, TX

Tell us about your time here, how did you get involved at UT?

Throughout my time at UT, I had the opportunity to really explore and develop my interests. Within engineering, I’ve been involved in Omega Chi Epsilon (OXE), UT Student Engineers Educating Kids (SEEK), and Tau Beta Pi (TBP). My time with SEEK and as an officer of OXE helped me develop my leadership skills and allowed me to serve as a mentor to my community.

In my junior year, I joined Graze, UT’s men’s club ultimate B team. During my two years with Graze, I found my passion for the sport of ultimate frisbee and made phenomenal friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

Since my freshman year, I have been involved in undergraduate research in the lab of Dr. Nicholas Peppas, where I worked on the development of polymer nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery applications. My time as a researcher in the Peppas lab has been one of my most rewarding experiences at UT, and has played a major role in guiding my career aspirations while allowing me to contribute to the scientific community.


What are your plans after graduation?

I will be attending graduate school at UC Berkeley/UCSF, pursuing a PhD in bioengineering.


What will you miss most about The McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering?

I will definitely miss the people the most. The faculty and staff along with my fellow classmates contribute to an amazing community in the chemical engineering department where everyone is looking out for each other. I have made close friends with many of my fellow classmates and will miss seeing them regularly.


Why would you encourage incoming freshmen to choose chemical engineering?

Chemical engineering is a highly diverse field of engineering that can pave the way for a wide variety of careers in either industry or academia. The chemical engineering experience at Texas ChE provides numerous resources and opportunities to explore career options and teaches students how to be strong problem solvers and critical thinkers, skills useful for any career.


KENDALL MEYERTONS Kendall Meyertons, Texas ChE graduate

Hometown: Austin, TX

Tell us about your time here, how did you get involved at UT?

While I was at UT, I got involved with a variety of organizations. When I was a freshman, I joined AIChE and the Roden Leadership Program during my first semester and then during my second semester, I joined Texas Bluebonnets. I was open to new experiences and meeting new people. I met older classmates at Texas ChE and they invited me to participate in intramurals with them. I had such a positive experience with them that I continued to participate in multiple intramural teams and sports every semester after that.

At the start of my sophomore year, I joined a research lab with Dr. Delia Milliron, focusing on environmentally “green” processing through the hydrophilic polymer passivation of indium tin oxide nanocrystals. I became a candidate for Omega Chi Epsilon (OXE) and really fell in love with the OXE community. I became the Social Chair for a semester and then Vice President External for the next year.

I also joined a petroleum engineering lab with Dr. Eric van Oort and studied how to improve the decommissioning and abandonment of oil and gas wells using fly ash-based geopolymers. Although my interests and involvement changed throughout my four years at UT, those opportunities allowed me to develop leadership, communication and problem-solving skills that were transferable across all of the groups.


What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate, I will be moving to Houston, Texas, to work for ExxonMobil as a Process Design Engineer in their Project Development Division. I am very excited to start my career with ExxonMobil and as a native Austinite, moving to a new city in Texas is a big deal for me!


What will you miss most about The McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering?

The community! At the end of my four years, I felt very close to the people I graduated with. We spent so many hours studying for difficult exams and working on homework sets together. People who graduate from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering form lifelong bonds with their classmates because you really do see each other through thick and thin. Without the support I had or the friendships I made at Texas ChE, I would not be the same engineer or person I am today.


What was your most memorable moment at UT?

I studied abroad for a Maymester the summer after my freshman year in Barcelona, Spain, for Dr. Brian Korgel’s Nanotechnology and Innovation course and that is where I met most of my closest friends. The class was project-based, so we worked in a very collaborative environment during the day and then explored local restaurants and activities together in the evenings and on the weekends. We still talk and joke about our initial impressions of one another. We had no idea our group would become so close.


JESSICA HUNGJessica Hung, Texas ChE PhD 2018

Hometown: Arizona

Tell us about your time here, how did you get involved at UT?

In my time at UT, I’ve been privileged enough to be able to serve as a research mentor to a large group of extremely talented undergraduates and in many ways I feel that I have learned as much from them as they have from me. I’ve also had the joy of being able to share the richness of our department and university with the general public through outreach events such as Explore UT and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, and to engage eager young minds in the STEM fields through those events. Education has always been an integral part of my family and culture, so I’m happy to be able to give back and pass the torch on to the next generation through these outreach and mentoring opportunities.


What are your plans after graduation?

I am now working at Bristol-Myers Squibb as a scientist, working on research closely related to my PhD thesis. My colleagues are all incredibly talented and passionate people, and I am happy to be working alongside them for a great cause — supporting the development and manufacture of next-generation biologics for treating cancer and other challenging diseases and tackling health equity through corporate outreach programs.


What will you miss most about The McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering?

I will miss the faculty, staff and fellow undergraduate/graduate students, each of who have contributed to my growth as a scientist and professional, as well as made my time at Texas ChE so enjoyable. Whether helping me with the logistics and coordination of milestones in the PhD program or providing inspiration for my research through informal chats in the hallways or in the labs, the people in the department have been invaluable in propelling me through my PhD studies and making the whole experience much more fun and rewarding.


What was your most memorable moment at UT?

The department and university as a whole has a strong sense of community and pride, so I would say some of my most memorable moments involve group outreach and activities, such as the department recruitment weekends, Explore UT/Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and serving as a research mentor for undergraduates and high school students.


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