Alumna Engineers Fashion

Recent chemical engineering graduate Diya Liu models some of her fashion designs

Recent chemical engineering (ChE) graduate, Diya Liu enjoys combining her engineering ingenuity with a creative flair. Besides working as a biotechnology researcher, Liu displays a passion for fashion by designing clothes-which have recently caught the eyes of fashion elite.

Liu marched into the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry for four years in style, always leaving colleagues wondering what she would be wearing next.  She was a double major at The University of Texas at Austin by day and a “fashion and personal style blogger by night.”

Liu was definitely a busy student, but not busy enough apparently.  In her last, and probably toughest, semester at UT Austin, Liu entered the Front Row College Challenge, a nationwide competition to discover the ultimate college fashionista hosted by magazine Marie Claire.

Out of hundreds of applicants, Liu was selected to produce an entire fashion show on her own to compete against four other finalists.  Her show, held at the Mohawk bar in Austin, impressed the judges enough to name her the college queen of fashion.  The win also earned her a joint internship with Marie Claire, clothing store LOFT and cosmetics company Rimmel London this coming summer in New York.

“There were quite a few of my ChE classmates that came to my show,” Liu said.  “Even though fashion isn’t their thing, they were right there next to the judges, front row, cheering really loudly.” Liu says supportive classmates demonstrate one of the things she loves most about the chemical engineering department: the amount of camaraderie.

“There was always someone willing to help me if I needed it-a fellow student or a professor,” Liu said.  “The ChE students always worked together in preparation for exams or figuring out homework.”

Some of the students who attended the fashion show are Liu’s colleagues from Professor George Georgiou’s research team, of which she is still a member.  Until her Marie Claire internship begins, she will continue to work for Georgiou engineering a trypsin-resistant Fc domain by using phage-display, which could lead to the creation of an antibody that can be delivered orally instead of through IV injection to deliver therapeutic drugs.

“She has been one of the best undergraduates I have worked with in the lab,” said Georgiou, who believes that Liu’s blog, In Her Stilettos, is a good example of the creativity of his students outside the classroom.  “She is quite remarkable and I am extremely proud of her accomplishments in her studies, her research and, of course, in her other passion which is fashion.”

After her internship this summer, Liu plans to attend law school to study patent law.  And although law, like fashion, seems like another career path unrelated to chemical engineering, Liu draws a clear connection.

“Chemical engineering prepared me really well for a lot of things: it prepared me to think,” she said. “It taught me how to look at the facts, analyze them and apply them to a variety of different situations.  Law is just like that; a lot of the analytical thinking is the same.”

Liu proves that chemical engineering produces well-rounded thinkers ready to take on any occupation.

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