Cool Careers: Chemical Engineering
Action Potential Learning’s Cool Career Blog Series offers an insightful look into some of the best math and science related jobs. We bring you career insights and tips directly from successful working people that have been influenced by math and science. These Cool Career interviews will help you decide whether a career in the highlighted field is right for you!
Bachelor Degree: BS degree in Chemistry
Current Position: Graduate Student in Chemical Engineering at LSU
Previous Work: TJH2B analytical labs (lab technician), Albemarle Corporation (reactor technician)
Q: What is your career; and what do you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?
A: I am a grad student in the field of Chemical Engineering at LSU, so most of my time is spent doing research. Our team is investigating the BP oil spill, and trying to develop a model for determining the location of oil within the water column depending on oil type, composition, depth, dispersant concentration, and current flow. On a daily basis we prepare samples for experimentation adjusting compositions and physical conditions to test our model’s validity. The tests we run usually take a week to get results, so we run as many as we can as often as we can. We then compile the data we have collected, compare it our current model and determine its worth through statistical analysis determining whether or not the model we proposed is useful.
Q: Why is your career awesome?
A: This career is awesome because the research being done is new and requires innovation. The ideas and techniques developed in the lab everyday bring the scientific community closer to understanding and containing environmental disasters that previously have not been seen on the scale presented by the BP spill. This is largely unexplored and hardly understood territory that has a huge environmental impact on millions of people affecting their businesses, livelihood, and health. Understanding how oil moves and where it goes at great depths and pressures is a unique problem that requires creativity to solve; this makes coming to work an interesting experience every day.
Q: How has math and science helped you excel in your career?
A: The entire field of engineering is based on an understanding and utilization of mathematics and scientific principles. In our lab we need to be able to confidently measure and combine complex chemical mixtures composed of thousands of individual chemical components, determine whether or not a droplet of a certain composition will sink or float (and at what rates), and build a model with accurate predictive capabilities that apply to real world scenarios. All this is possible (though not without its own difficulties) with math and science.
Q: What college majors or programs are best for your career?
A: Engineering (largely Chemical and Petroleum), Chemistry, Oceanography, and Environmental Sciences are best suited for this kind of work though there is much crossover dealing with the effects of spills in the Biological field. Anything that has to do with Chemodynamics (the studying of how chemicals move throughout the environment) is well-suited for a career in this type of research.
Q: What can an interested student do now to prepare for a career in your field?
A: Start with gaining an understanding of the basics. Learn ways to answer the questions: “what made that happen,” “why is this occurring,” “what drives this process?”
Q: What advice do you have for students interested in your career field?
A: Stay interested, ask questions, and plan out thought experiments in detail even if they can’t currently be done in a lab setting. Many of the greatest solutions to problems start by simply asking “what would happen if we did this?”
Article written by Shayna L. Pond and Action Potential Learning
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