Shae Thompson will be starting her Junior year in Chemical Engineering in Fall semester 2016. She is a member of the University of Utah’s American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Chapter, as well as Society of Women Engineers. She will graduate in Spring semester of 2018.

Why did you decide to become a Chemical Engineering Major?
Many major problems that affect our communities both domestically and abroad are issues like energy demand, lack of clean water, air pollution, and inadequate access to healthcare technology. All of these problems are being solved by chemical engineering. That’s what initially intrigued me about the Chemical Engineering major—you can learn how to solve problems with a focus on improving the world!

What has been your favorite ChemE class so far and why?
Air Pollution Control Engineering. I took this class as a technical elective last year. I learned about the sources of air pollution, how these pollutants travel in the environment, and about technology to reduce pollution. This course nicely complimented another tech elective I took—a geology class on how organic pollutants interact in the environment. Upper division technical elective classes are my favorite because you have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of really interesting topics.

Tell us about your undergraduate research experience:
I’ve worked with Dr. Kevin Whitty in the combustion lab for about three years now. I started out by assisting in the reconstruction of a thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA), and then doing coal and biomass gasification with the system. A TGA basically measures the weight of a sample over time, with respect to temperature and pressure with the ability to introduce various gases to the sample. Last year I worked on a project utilizing nanotechnology in carbon dioxide sorption, again using TGA systems. I’ve enjoyed my research experiences because I have gained both theoretical and hands-on technical knowledge that has helped me in my classes, my industrial internship, and will eventually help me in my career.

What are your plans after graduation?
After I graduate I will definitely pursue an advanced degree in Chemical Engineering, and possibly an MBA as well. My dream career would be to own my own company. Ultimately I hope to do humanitarian work either as part of my job, or through a group like Engineers Without Borders. I think it’s important to utilize chemical engineering not only to help solve problems, but also to educate and promote STEM in underserved populations.

What advice would you give to new Chemical Engineering students?
Don’t switch out of the major! I think a lot of people don’t realize how versatile this degree really is, and I think every new student can find something that they are passionate about within Chemical Engineering. The classes will challenge you, but the professors and TAs are there to help you. Form relationship with other students and the professors—this can help you get research positions and internships. There are so many great professors within this department—don’t be shy to talk with them!

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