Congratulations, Class of 2012!

ChE students at graduationOn May 18, 73 undergraduates walked across the Frank Erwin Center stage in front of hundreds of cheering family and friends to accept a diploma in chemical engineering. Significant research contributions, countless awards and extra curricular leadership are just some of the ways ChE students have earned a class-act reputation around campus and further afield.

In a celebratory bid farewell, we’ve profiled a few students from the talented class of 2012, asking about their experience at UT Austin and what comes after graduation.

Check out the Cockrell School’s spring 2012 graduation photos online.

Undergraduate student Karl DaumKarl Daum (The Academic)

Research: Plant molecular biology, plant genetic engineering, biofuel development. I’ve contributed to research on optimizing the growth rates and harvesting of algea for the production of biofuels.

Awards: The Rase Brothers Award, Highest Honors in ChE, Dean’s Scholar, Virginia and Ernest Cockrell Jr. Scholarship Recipient.

How does it feel to win the Rase Brothers Award?
(The award recognizes the graduating senior with the highest GPA who started as a freshman and finished the program in four academic years)

I’m very excited to have won this award. It took countless hours of hard work to get the grades I did. It took a lot of late nights and early mornings. I could not have done it without the support of my friends and family.

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be moving back to Houston to work at a small chemical plant that produces wax and polyols. It is not a large company, but I believe the position offers me an interesting mix of innovative technical challenges and opportunities to quickly become involved in the business aspect of the company.

What will you miss most about the department?

The people. All of the professors are very approachable outside of class and willing to help you when you get stuck. The students are all very bright and friendly. Almost all of them are willing to take time away from their own work to help fellow students when they get stuck. Luckily, a lot of the students are already in Houston or will be joining me there in a couple years.

Why would you encourage incoming freshmen to choose chemical engineering?

Just listen to the plans of any graduating seniors and you can see why chemical engineering is a great major. It is definitely a very difficult course load, but the variety it offers after college is amazing. There are ChE students going into the pharmaceutical, electronics, chemicals, and food industries. Students from ChE can also go on to be doctors, or do ground-breaking research in energy, materials, and even biological engineering.

Undergraduate student Carlene LeydenCarlene Leyden (The Athlete)

Study Abroad: One of the best things I did as an undergraduate was participate in a study abroad program in San Sebastian, Spain. I completed my minor in Spanish and really improved my Spanish skills.

University Honors, Iron Horn Award & Letter Winner, Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll, College Scholar, Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar Award, Women’s Tennis Team Academic MPV, The Marvin Wright Engineering Athlete Award, ExxonMobil Technical Scholarship, Tennis Team Scholastic MVP award.

How did you balance being a tennis player and your ChE studies?

A strong support network was crucial. My tennis coach, Patty Fendick-McCain, was very understanding and she encouraged me to do well in school. When I took a co-op with ExxonMobil my junior year, I was nervous I wouldn’t make the team again after being gone so long.  Not only did coach McCain want me back, but she supported my decision to leave tennis for a semester to pursue the internship.

Kelly McQueary in the ChE undergraduate office gave me advice not only on my academic future but also about life. I was in her office more times than I can count! Dr. Mullins, my advisor, also supported my academics and tennis.

Having mentors from both these different parts of my life really helped. All my coaches, the entire athletic community and the ChE community always had my best interests in mind.

What are your plans after graduation?

This summer I’m going to teach English at a Tanzanian orphanage. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, so I’m really looking forward to learning about the culture and living with a host family. I’ll also spend some more time in Spain before starting work with ExxonMobil this fall. I worked as a reservoir engineering in the production company during my co-op and will now be working in the Flow Assurance Group in the development company.

What was your most memorable moment at UT Austin?

One of my most memorable moments was when my tennis team won the Big 12 Championship and beat Texas A&M on their home courts. I have never been more proud of the team, and it was the first time while I was on the team that we won the Big 12 Championship.  We also beat Baylor that season!

What was your most challenging assignment and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had many challenging projects.  However, since finishing my senior design plant project, I would have to say it was probably the most challenging but also the most rewarding. We were asked to design a brewery and we had almost the entire semester to do it, but of course we ended up staying up late a couple nights before to finish it. What I enjoyed most about the project is that I had to learn a new program in Excel called @Risk. It was such a helpful program that allowed us to put distributions on the inputted data that we were unsure of. I’m really excited to start working now because I really want to use this program on important projects.

Undergraduate student Nicholas DavyNicholas Davy (The Researcher)

Research: Advanced materials, polymers and nanotechnology, and energy.

Awards: The Virginia and Ernest Cockrell, Jr. Scholarship in Engineering, National Merit Scholarship, The Federal Robert C. Byrd Merit Scholarship.

What are your plans after graduation?

This fall I will begin my Ph.D. in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University, coupled with a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. Read about Nick’s NSF Fellowship.

Describe your research, how could it benefit society?

My future research interests include catalysis, energy materials, and electrochemistry. I hope to use my NSF grant to research CO2 reduction to fuels or photoelectrocatalysis of water splitting (for hydrogen production).

Methods for transforming carbon dioxide (photochemically for instance) into a source of fuel, such as methane or methanol, could offer an attractive way to decrease atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Sustainably produced fuels could be readily integrated into existing natural gas infrastructure to supplement and/or eventually replace fossil fuels. For the average person, this technology could mean consistently low home heating costs, or affordable, sustainable fuels at the pump.

What was the most important thing you learned? 

The importance of discipline and hard work. At the highest level of competition, everyone is talented; hard work and creativity are what can separate you from the pack.

What will you miss most about UT Austin?

I will most miss the people that comprise the warm and vibrant atmosphere at UT. I’ll also miss Austin, and, of course, Texas football!

Do you have any advice for incoming ChE students?

Work hard in the classroom! As much as Austin and UT have to offer outside of academics, you are here to learn and excel as a student. Also, I’d encourage students to seek out mentors, whether they be older students, professors, or otherwise. The mentors I had while at UT shaped my character, my direction, and ultimately my future.

Check out our Network and Connect page for alumni.

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