Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura Posner
Name: Laura Posner
Occupation PhD Student
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Chemical Engineering, University of Rochester, 2010; PhD (Chemical Engineering), Carnegie Mellon University, Expected 2015
Current city/state of residence: Pittsburgh, PA
Family: A very loving adopted Calico cat named Renny
Community activities: Dog walking volunteer, Animal Rescue League of Western PA
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
The most meaningful activity to me was being treasurer of UR Habitat for Humanity. After years of dumpster diving in SueB for money from container deposits, we cosponsored a house in Rochester for the first time in UR Habitat’s history. I always knew I could help people with a degree from UR, but it meant even more that I could help make a difference before graduation.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
In graduate school, you often choose your own hours, so disciplining myself to work regular hours allows me to take time for myself after work and on the weekends. Walking dogs at the animal shelter helps motivate me because I find it important to give myself something to look forward to each week.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I am a 2nd year PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University studying air quality in the Chemical Engineering department. I use a 3D chemical transport model to look at sources of particle number over the Eastern US. Graduate school felt like a natural progression after UR because I felt like I was not yet finished with book learning.
What advice do you have for current students?
Do not be afraid to apply to graduate programs or job postings that are not strictly within your major’s expertise. Engineering especially is very interdisciplinary. My research group includes Mechanical, Civil, and Chemical Engineers as well as chemists. I am taking Mechanical Engineering courses now on the side to pursue my other interests.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
I love engineering and French. Any engineering curriculum is usually strict, but UR’s cluster system allowed me the freedom to choose French classes to fulfill requirements. I may not have been able to continue with French elsewhere. Plus, the students appeared to be happy (which I later found to be very true). I greatly preferred UR’s atmosphere of students helping each other rather than cutthroat competition.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
I met many great people along the way at UR, but my Chemical Engineering adviser, Ben Ebenhack, and his wife were, and still are, great mentors to me. I used to stop in to talk and eat lunch with them while I was an undergrad. We still keep in touch. Their advice and support are very meaningful to me.