Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura Posner
Occupation: PhD Student
Education (UR and additional): BS (Chemical Engineering), University of Rochester, 2010. PhD (Chemical Engineering), Carnegie Mellon University, Expected 2015
Current city/state of residence: Pittsburgh, PA
Family: Renny the cat
Community activities: Dog walking team leader, Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
The most meaningful activity to me was my role as the treasurer of UR Habitat for Humanity. After years of dumpster diving in SueB for discarded soda cans and bottles to return for container deposits, we cosponsored a Habitat home in Rochester for the first time in UR Habitat’s history. It meant a lot to me to be able to make a difference while I was still a student. Additionally, I found a supportive community within the Pride Network, the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth (SAVVY), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
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. I find it important to give myself something to look forward to each week outside of work: walking dogs at the shelter, trying a new restaurant, or spending time with friends.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I am a 4th 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 the sources of particle number in the atmosphere over the Eastern US. I originally applied to graduate school because I felt I was not yet done book learning. Now I am sure I would like to go into industry after graduation.
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. I wish I had known that when I was applying to graduate school, but my PhD program did allow me the freedom to pursue my mechanical engineering interests by taking classes.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
I love engineering and French. An engineering curriculum is usually rigid, 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 true). I much preferred UR’s collaborative culture to the cutthroat competition I had noticed at other universities.
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. We still keep in touch. Their advice and support are very meaningful to me.