What Clubs Are You In? Campus Clubs Galore

With over 250 different student organizations to choose from, it’s no wonder that UR undergrads are always so busy!  The many opportunities offered by the various clubs and sports provide the campus population an outlet to share their interests and channel their passions. Listed below are some examples of the diverse and involved undergrads that embody the quintessentially Rochester student body.


Name: Alyssa Wolf
Major: Epidemiology
Class Year: 2015
“I’m in Blue Crew. Blue Crew is a school sports spirit organization. We go to sporting events, and we cheer a lot and scream.  We go to games for basketball, football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country.

Name: Nicholas Scacchetti
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2015
“I’m with the American Institute of Chemical Engineering here on campus. Right now, I’m heading up the ChemE car competition, where we build a small car to run in a competition that runs off a chemical reaction. We’re going to be building a hydrogen fuel cell car. We have all the parts and we’re putting it together right now.”

Name: Will Burns
Major: Business
Class Year: 2015
“I Rock Climb. I got into it when I was younger, and I wanted to continue it into college.”

Colleges against Cancer

Name: Julia Weisman
Major: Psychology and Business
Class Year: 2018
“The CAC (Colleges against Cancer) does a lot of advertising about certain types of cancer. Each month is focused on a different disease. We are focusing on lung and pediatric cancer; it was breast cancer month in October. We have lots of different events going on. We have had dinners in Douglass, and we do fun things on campus. We just like to promote awareness of the disease.”


Name: Dan Hoffman
Major: Music
Class Year: 2015
“I’m not in a club because I spend so much time dancing. That in itself is almost like an extracurricular thing, and I’m always choreographing and working with dancers in other classes. I just don’t have time for clubs.”

Name: Horacio Quezada
Major: Undeclared
Class Year: 2018
“I’m in a couple of them. One is called Salsita, which is part of a major organization called SALSA. It’s a leadership club, we learn about leadership positions. I’m also in Newman, which is the Catholic community here on campus. In Salsita, I’m the business manager.”


Name: Orkhan Abdullayev
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016 (Grad Student)
Club: BPG is the Ballet Performance Group, it is a club that is dedicated to preserving classical technique on campus, as well as allowing students to choreograph their own pieces in a variety of styles such as contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, and tap.

Name: Carola Figueroa
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2016
Club: Yes, I’m in Alpha Phi Omega, it’s a community service fraternity. I’m also in the Society of Undergraduate Biology Students. I joined APO because I love service.

Name: Evan Mclaughlin
Major: Computer Science
Class Year: 2016
“I’m in Chi Phi fraternity. I was the secretary last year which was fun. I did all the paper pushing in the background.”

Track & Field

Name: Bobbi Spiegel
Major: Health, Behavior, and Society
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity track team, and I’m on grass roots. I’m also involved in Jewish life, like Chabad and Hillel. For track, we have practice six days a week, because the NCAA mandates that we have one day off. Once we hit January 1st, we have a meet every weekend until the end of school. We actually stay past the end of school, because our meets go into late May/ early June. It’s a big dedication, since we also have weight room time. My main event is long jump. I also sprint and do triple jump.”

Name: Alex Samuelson
Major: Neuroscience and Political Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m in Delta Gamma, one of the sororities here on campus.  What we’re doing right now is supporting our philanthropy, which is Service for Sight, which supports blinded veterans who have been wounded, and also their families. We’re selling bracelets for the blinded veterans’ association, and later, we’re going to have an event, this coming Saturday, where we wrap gifts for the families of soldiers who are currently deployed.

mariachiName: Marcia Des Jardin
Major: Molecular Genetics
Class Year: 2015, 2016T5
“UR Mariachi is really cool group of people. I don’t speak Spanish at all, but I sing in Spanish. It’s a lot of fun to get out of your comfort zone, and get to know people you wouldn’t necessarily know before. You can play violin, guitar, bass, trumpet, flute, accordion – whatever you want, just come to our rehearsals on Wednesday at 4:30.”

Name: Molly Goldstein
Major: Music, BCS
Class Year: 2017
“This past weekend, the Frisbee team actually went to Montreal, and we had a tournament there. We did pretty well. We won a few games and had a lot of fun. It was a very rewarding experience with the team. It’s a nice balance between being very serious about our playing, but also having a good time on the field as well.”

Name: Hadley Brown
Major: English Language/Media Communications, Psychology
Class Year: 2015
“For U of R’s Alpha Phi organization, I’m actually the parental and alumni affairs coordinator, so I work a lot with outreach to the outside community, trying to bring them back to the school, get some school spirit, and to introduce the girls to some people they can network with after college.”

Name: Milagros Garcia
Major: Psychology, English language/Media Communications
Class Year: 2017
SALSA, the Spanish & Latino Students Association, is basically a community, you don’t have to be Hispanic of any type to join, basically, we just discuss issues that affect the Latin-American community as well as try to make ourselves known that we’re a part of campus.


Name: Liza Gerwig
Major: BCS
Class Year: 2016
Sihir is the belly dancing group, and it’s really fun.  There’s a lot of cool, wacky people, and we do cool, fancy things, and put on nice shows.”

Name: Shelby Corning
Major: Environmental Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity Softball team. We went to nationals last spring for the first time in school history, which was really cool. It was a big step for the program. I’m a left fielder.”

Name: Rachel Milner
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2015
“The Strong Jugglers were formed in 1995, and we started off as a bunch of kids who went over to Strong Memorial Hospital to juggle for the patients. It’s evolved into a fine circus and performing arts organization. We like to perform on and off-campus. It’s very casual: anyone can join!”

Name: Duncan Graham
Major: Economics
Class Year: 2015
Mock Trial is a club that does what the name implies, we put on trials. There are attorneys, there are witnesses, and we compete with schools across the east coast and the south. We’re even thinking of going to California. We compete, we have attorneys, witnesses, and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

ArcheryName: Allison Colarusso
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016
Archery right now: we shoot arrows… at targets.”

Name: Paul Gabrys
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2014, 2015T5
Newman Community is where people who identify as Catholic want come together to grow as a community.”


Lauren Bailey: Star Swimmer is a Shark in the Classroom

Lauren Bailey, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, was one of 10 University scholar-athletes recognized for their abilities “on the field” and in the classroom.

Bailey, from Ossining, NY, holds the University records for the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, and is a part of all the record-holding relay teams.

During the football team’s season opener, she and nine other athletes were presented Garnish Awards during a halftime ceremony. Bailey said she was nervous at first to go out to midfield and accept the award in front of the whole stadium of football fans. “It was definitely never-racking,” she said. “It was a huge honor though. My whole team came out to support me, which was really nice of them. It was super exciting!”

The Garnish Award program was created in honor of Lysle “Spike” Garnish, who consecutively served as an assistant coach for the University’s basketball, baseball, and football teams from 1930-1948.

According to the Athletic Department’s webpage, “Friends of Rochester Athletics, through an alumni committee, reviews nominations of students from varsity teams who have achieved at a high level in both their athletic and academic pursuits through their junior year. From these nominees, a small number are selected as Garnish Scholars.”

It’s definitely not easy

Bailey, who has a GPA of 3.87, says that balancing athletics and academics is “definitely not easy. But I think if you’re really passionate about both things—I really like chemical engineering, and I really like swimming—but I think it’s also about time management,” she said.

“For me, I do homework with a group of people or with my friends, so it makes it more enjoyable. Plus, I don’t really dread doing homework, so that definitely makes it easier to work with other people.”

During her senior year, Bailey says one of her goals is to have fun this season. “I’m really not going to put any pressure on myself,” she claimed. “I want to do well, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I’m really having fun. This is probably the last year I will swim competitively on a college team where we all share a common goal.”

Bailey’s best advice to student athletes? “Don’t stay up too late the night before you have practice in the morning.” According to her, “Mainly you’re here at the University to do well in school and succeed.”

Another important piece of advice Bailey offers is to prioritize, and “make sure to realize when you’re struggling to balance school and swimming, or school and any sport that you’re doing, because you don’t want your academics to slip. Don’t take on too much, though, because it can be a really rigorous schedule, and you want to make sure you have free time to enjoy yourself still,” she says.

In her time here at the U of R, Bailey has taken many classes, but the one in which she learned the most was the chemical engineering class, Reactor Design. Bailey says “It’s a really important class, because it has so many applications with so many jobs, and I think it’s really important to understanding what’s going on. It was definitely challenging, since we did a lot of coding with MatLab, and I’m not excellent at that.” Starting from the most basic reactors, the class covered many fundamental chemical engineering concepts.

This year, the senior says that instead of stressing about swimming times and tests, she wants to “have a good time, and make sure I’m getting done what I need to get done…but I’m definitely going to enjoy myself.”

As graduation gets closer, Bailey says she’ll start looking for chemical engineering positions, and at some point, she may consider getting an MBA.

By Joe Bailey and Monique Patenaude

Senior Swimmer Named Academic All-American

By Bob Marcotte
University Communications

“If you really enjoy something, you are going to find time to do it,” says Lauren Bailey, a rising senior in Chemical Engineering and star of the University of Rochester women’s swimming team, after being named an Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

This is one of the highest academic awards that a student-athlete can earn. And that is no small achievement considering the difficulty of her major and the time commitment involved in being a member of the swim team. Team members practice about 20 hours a week during the swim season, but during competitions, swimming sometimes takes up 30 hours a week. And yet Bailey has managed to excel in both the classroom and the pool.

Bailey, who is also pursuing a minor in mathematics, carries a 3.87 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.00 scale). That earned her a place on the Capital One Academic All-America At-Large Team. She is a Second Team Academic All-America selection after earning First Team Academic All-District honors. She is just the third Rochester women’s swimmer to earn Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA in the past 29 years.

She also has been breaking swim records left and right. At the 2013-14 Liberty League Championships, she won seven league titles, broke seven league records, and six Rochester records. In three years (freshman through junior seasons), she has won 17 Liberty League titles and set 14 Liberty League records. She earned All-America honors in four events at the NCAA Division III National Championships this spring: the 100- and 200-yard butterfly, the 200-yard freestyle relay, and the 200-yard medley relay.


So how does she balance a rigorous course load with the demands of varsity athletics? “College is all about priorities,” Bailey says. “I try to plan ahead, and if I have assignments due the following week and a swim meet over the weekend, I will try to do my work on Thursday or Friday to avoid stress over the weekend.” It helps that the swim team’s coaches understand that school comes first, she added. “If I am behind on school work, they can work with my practice schedule to make sure I get my assignments completed. My good friend, Zoe McCauley, is also a chemical engineering major and is on the swim team, so worst case scenario, we will do work together on the bus rides to away swim meets.”

“Being on the swim team keeps me very disciplined with my school work and helps me manage my time very efficiently.” As much as she enjoys setting a new swim record, the most important thing is being part of a team, Bailey added. “I know that every time I am in the water competing, I have 50 fellow swimmers rooting for me and cheering me on. At the end of the day, it feels great to know that you are part of a team where people have your back and show you continuous support and love.”

Bailey said she was “slightly unsure” about which major to pursue when she arrived at UR as a freshman. But after taking a few chemical engineering classes, she knew what she wanted to do. “My interest in chemical engineering stems from how versatile the field is. It is a great background to have, and getting a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering shows that you have great discipline and work ethic due to the difficulty of the major.”

“Also, the chemical engineering professors at the University of Rochester demonstrate a great understanding for the material they teach and show sincere respect for their students, which solidifies my choice to be a chemical engineer.” After graduating next spring, she plans to start working. “I may work for a couple of years and then go back to get my MBA or masters in chemical engineering,” Bailey said. “I am still unsure of where I want to work, but I know that when I retire one day, I want to run an alpaca farm.”

Photo courtesy of University Athletics.


Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Michael Peritz

defaultName: Michael Peritz

Occupation: Engineer

Education: BS Chemical Engineering and MS Chemical Engineering both UR

Current job title: Process Engineer

Current employer: Wollaston Alloys, Inc.

Current city/state of residence: Brighton, MA

Family: 1

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I went with chemical engineering, because I loved chemistry, but did not want to give up math.  That may seem like a weird answer to some people, but it allowed me to learn a lot about the way the world works, and gave me a new perspective on life and on solving problems.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was a part of Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity.  A lot of people perpetuate some negative stereotypes about fraternities, but my experience gave me a lot of skills employers were looking for.  Some of my responsibilities in the various positions I held during my time at SAM came up in interviews and seemed to impress a lot of people.  It was also a great way to make friends, meet a ton of new people, and relieve stress.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

The career center was really helpful.  I had no clue how to write a resume or cover letter and they taught me both.  Several employers I interviewed with commented that my resume looked professional, and that it was one of the reasons they decided to speak with me.  The career center also provides other services like mock interviews which can be very helpful.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

After graduation, I decided to stay at U of R for a 5th year and participate in the chemical engineering 3-2 program.  It was a great choice for me, because I knew a lot of my friends were having trouble finding jobs, and I knew a Masters degree would help.  They also allow you to circumvent taking the GRE, and give you a big scholarship.  After I finished that program, it took me about 3 months to find a job which is much better than average.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I recently accepted a job offer at a high alloy steel castings foundry in Braintree, MA.  I am not 100% sure about what my responsibilities are because I just started, but my role is as a process engineer working on designing and controlling the castings process from a chemical engineering standpoint.  I chose the career because it offers a highly variable, challenging, and extreme environment.  I like working with my hands, so this is perfect.

I would like to be an engineering or operations manager.  This type of job would allow me to make higher impact decisions, while still focusing on engineering and the things I learned and love. 

How do you balance your work and personal life?

In Boston, it’s easy.  There is so much to do, there really isn’t any excuse not to get out there and have a good time.  Most cities have sports teams you can join that are meant for young working people, so they schedule games around work schedules.  I recently joined a basketball league starting next month.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

This may sound redundant, but study hard.  There are a ton of really competitive candidates out there that have done a lot of interesting and relevant work.  Improving your grades can give you a leg up.  I also recommend getting a crummy job after college (unless you get hired immediately).  I worked in retail for a couple months and it taught me a lot about how to talk to and deal with people.  It also gives you some extra money to pay your rent, groceries, etc.


Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Molly Leitch

leitchName: Molly Leitch ’08

Age: 25

Occupation: Manufacturing Process Engineer

Education (UR and additional): BS (Chemical Engineering), University of Rochester, 2008

Current city/state of residence: Nashville, Tennessee

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?  

Is it bad to say “soccer”?  I really lucked out that the team I wanted to play for was at a school with great academics.

When and how did you choose your major?  

My parents wouldn’t let me major in chemistry… so Chemical Engineering it was!

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

The Career Center was amazing!!!! Going into senior year I was so nervous and anxious about getting a job.  Meeting with the Career Center advisor completely prepared me for interviews and gave me confidence in how my resume looked.  I couldn’t have done it without them.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

I was really lucky to have friends who were a few years older in the engineering department.  My semi-peer mentor was perfect for answering the questions that I didn’t know how to ask my parents or academic advisors.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

This is always a decision I have debated.  I never went abroad and always feel like I missed something.  But I was scared that if I didn’t take an engineering job right after school then no one would ever hire me.  Looking back I am sure I would have gotten a job either way, but everyone’s path and priorities are different.   You just have to do what feels right at the time.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?  

Ummm…. This is tricky because I am not really doing differential equations in my daily job.  But the problem solving skills I learned at UofR I use every day.

What advice do you have for current students?

Keep in touch with the classmates in your degree.  We all take different paths after graduation, but knowing what other U.R. students with just a Chemical Engineering Bachelors are doing helps me gauge where I stand in the job market and what other career possibilities there are out there.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Ian Moltrup


Name: Ian Moltrup
Education (UR and additional): BS Chemical Engineering ‘11
Current city/state of residence: Buffalo, NY
Occupation: Chemical Engineer
Current job title: Sales Application Engineer – Process Market
Current employer: API Heat Transfer Inc.
Community activities: Arcade Community Band

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I began my studies in Chemical Engineering on Day One after arriving. I wasn’t sure it was exactly what I wanted, but after the first few classes I absolutely enjoyed it. I had always been interested in math and chemistry in high school and it was a great fit for me.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I stuck mostly to the engineering clubs and musical groups on campus. As an officer in the AIChE student group, I gained leadership experience and helped introduce new ChemE’s to the school and engineering community on campus. I improved my musical talent on trumpet through Pep Band and Brass Choir and had an absolutely wonderful time in both of those groups, as well as several others I was involved in.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

First, go to the career center! There is so much knowledge and information there to get you started on a great career path and many people who will work to help you get there. Second, go to the study abroad office. There are so many places to see in the world and many great opportunities to go visit and learn great things. Even if you don’t want to spend a semester studying elsewhere, there are many great summer programs that you can apply to.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Literally two weeks after graduation I was on a plane to Germany for a 6 month internship at Evonik to work on heat exchanger systems. This was facilitated by the German Exchange Service, the DAAD, in their RISE program. I would highly recommend applying as the experiences you will have will be some of the most memorable in your life. I had a great time and learned so many things.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

At the moment I am an application engineer for a heat exchanger manufacturer. I desperately love solving heat transfer problems, but would also like to be more of a process engineer. I plan to move out of this job in a few years, maybe get a MS, and use my experiences to land a job closer to where I’d like my career to be. I prefer to be out of a lab, doing calculations, and occasionally getting down and dirty with the equipment, so I guess I’d like to be a consultant process engineer in the future.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

I mostly use mass and energy balances and unit conversion on a daily basis. Sometimes higher level math is involved, but not on a regular basis. I do wish that I had taken some more programming in college, but teaching myself isn’t bad either; you remember the mistakes better. With engineering, a lot of what you will need to know for your career is learned while solving problems and completing projects in your first years of work. College is a good place to get an idea of what you want to pursue and to learn the basic tools to get there, but industry is a whole new library of information to learn.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Go to every free food event you can, you’ll learn things and meet many new people. Get involved in as many groups as you have time for. You can explore many interesting things in college for free that you can’t as easily jump into afterwards; get active! Don’t fret if you don’t land your dream job, there is always something you can learn from any job that will help your resume in the future.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Guy Mongelli

GuyMondName: Guy Mongelli

Occupation: Doctoral Student

Education (UR and additional): B.S./M.S. Chem. Eng. ’10/’12 @ UR

Current job title: Graduate Research Assistant

Current employer: Case Western Reserve University

Current city/state of residence: Cleveland, OH

Community activities: Newman Community at CWRU and St. Anne’s Church of Cleveland

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

 On my application to the U of R, there was a blank box for my intended major.  I had taken college level courses at that point and wanted a major that included significant coverage of chemistry and mathematics- but also one that provided a wide set of post-graduate opportunities.  I decided that chemical engineering had the right balance between these requirements and that with a chem. eng. degree I could follow any of the paths I desired; into engineering, law or medicine at a later time.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

While at the U of R, in addition to maintaining high academic achievement, I was heavily involved in student life.  I was involved in the Tae Kwon Do Club (eventually attaining the rank of second degree black belt), Campus Activities Board (served as Wilson Commons Chair and then Business Manager) and Sigma Nu Fraternity.  I worked in Prof. Rothberg’s lab and was an Eisenberg Summer Research Fellow.  I became a resident advisor in the campus dorms.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

After graduating, I took a trip to tour Italy for several weeks, visited my parents’ home in New York City, and then returned to Rochester to begin my master’s degree in chemical engineering.  I completed the coursework requirements in two semesters and stayed yet another year working on my master’s thesis.  My master’s thesis was supervised by Professors Tang and Rothberg.  Now I am pursuing a doctoral degree from Case Western Reserve University, also in Chemical Engineering.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

I’ve put a little bit of time into every aspect of student life I could.  The saying “you get out what you put in” definitely applies to UR Life.  While at the U of R, continue to pursue excellence in all aspects of yourself.  Every now and then ask yourself, “is this what I want to be doing?”, and ask others what they have learned.  Mutually share your experiences as you acquire them and you will simultaneously realize how unique you really are and improve your ability to relate to others.  When you enter graduate school or take your first employment opportunity, represent UR well and make a positive impression on those around you.  I have to paraphrase Ed Hajim on finding your passion, making plans and finding your partner to be with you while you do the first two.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Elizabeth Hill

Name: Elizabeth Hill
Age: 31
Occupation: Chemical Engineer
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Chemical Engineering, University of Rochester, 2003; PhD in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2007
Current city/state of residence: Eden Prairie, MN
Family:  My husband, Frank and I enjoy hiking and canoeing northern MN with our one year old daughter Lena Rose.  We spend time reading and enjoy the company of our two dogs, and cat.
Community activities:  Pax Christi, SWE, AIChE

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

The University of Rochester gave me a Bausch and Lomb Award in my senior year of high school which sparked my interest.  I recall U of R being “not too big,” but still having a wide range of majors that interested me.   In my case, the generous financial aid package and low interest loan options were also the most financially prudent choice, even as compared to the SUNY system.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As a student I played softball for the University of Rochester and was a member of SWE, AICHE and the Newman Community. Lisa Norwood, Assistant Dean of the Hajim School of Engineering, was a SWE faculty leader at the time, and helped me understand the value of a professional network. I also loved the peace and calm at Newman services led by Father Cool and Sister Kathleen. All of these organizations showed me the joy of spending time in service to my community.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am both a mom and an improvement engineer working on sustainable water and process solutions for the Dow Chemical Company. I enjoy a good challenge and I’d say that’s what led me to this “dual career”.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Balance truly is an illusion; however, there are choices I have made that allow me to lead both a rich personal and rewarding professional life. Taking time to evaluate and articulate my core values (faithfulness, family, determination, and trust) has helped me.  As example, my values lead my family to sacrifice a bigger home, nicer car, and limit our vacations to trips to see family once our daughter was born. We choose to live off of one income so my husband can stay home with her. Likewise, if something is outside of my control at work (or home), but does not conflict with my personal values, then I try not to worry it. As I reflect on this now, I’m quite happy with my choices thus far, but I also recall how hard they were in the moment – have kids right away, or finish my PhD? I waited; take the job that is closer to family, or take the job that has a higher earning potential? I chose family. There are other choices I can anticipate on the horizon – pursue an expatriate assignment or stay in the US?  Thinking ahead of time, makes it a lot easier in the moment when the choice becomes a tangible option and also allows my values to guide my choices.

What advice do you have for current students?

Be flexible because life changes fast. Anyone who’s received Dr. Amy Lerner’s (Department of Biomedical Engineering) tips on obtaining an internship knows that is the first thing to do, and the second, and then be flexible some more.  Additionally, to guys and girls alike – check out writings on “’The Imposter Syndrome.” It was an enlightening moment the day I learned of this phenomena as well as an empowering one. I’d also encourage all students to become fluent in the business case for diversity because studies (www.catalyst.org) show this a fiscally rewarding endeavor that cannot be undertaken without support from all.

Research Internship Introduced Rochester Junior to German Culture

By Jordan Duncan ’14
Intern, Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences

Maria Zapata ’14, a chemical engineering major at the University of Rochester, fell in love with Germany when she interned abroad at German national lab, Forschungszentrum Jülich, for four months this past summer.  She participated in the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Research Internships in Science and Engineering (DAAD RISE) program after learning about it through the University’s Center for Study Abroad & Interdepartmental Programs.

Before beginning her research in Jülich, Zapata participated in a month-long German language crash course in Münich.  “I learned more German from listening to my friends, though,” she said.  “They would repeat the same words again and again, so eventually I learned the basics.  I could hold most of this conversation in German right now.”

Throughout the length of the internship, Zapata traveled every weekend.  She visited Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Austria during her stay in Germany.  “It was amazing!” she said.  “You get to know another culture.  A lot of American people are afraid to leave the country, but I think it’s important to show that you’re not scared of going to a new place.”

Zapata met her traveling companions at the gym in Jülich, and she spent a lot of her free time with them.  “Everything in Germany is closed on Sundays, so I had a lot of time to myself,” she said.  “We went backpacking, and we learned a lot about different cultures.”

Besides experiencing a new culture, Zapata gained valuable experience in chemical engineering. “Doing research in Germany was great,” she said. “The system of doing research at the German national lab is totally different from our campus.”

The German lab offered her access to many resources that aren’t available on Rochester’s campus.  She learned how to operate new machines that are directly relevant to her field of research, and she learned from the more experienced researchers with whom she worked.

“My supervisor was amazing.  He taught me a lot and he was always helpful.”  Zapata was able to request microscope images from technicians, so she spent more time focusing on her research.  “I had more freedom to do what I think could work,” she said.  “I felt that my ideas were important for the group, and that my voice was heard.”

Zapata was pleased to discover that her peers and co-workers always supported each other and spent time together outside of work.  Everyone in her research group ate lunch together during the week, and after lunch they shared coffee time.  “It was great because we could talk about our different projects there,” she said.

The program provided Zapata with a $6,500 stipend throughout her stay for her work in the research lab.  The lodging was free and the flight was free, so she only paid for food and personal expenses during her time abroad.  “It’s a great way to go and explore Europe, even if you don’t want to spend a lot of money,” she said.

Zapata hopes to return to Germany after she earns her undergraduate degree.  “They told me that I can get a masters degree in engineering in a year and a half,” she said.  “Now, I am sure that I want to do my masters in Germany!”

Read More About Rochester Students Who Traveled Abroad Through Fellowships

Photo courtesy of Maria Zapata.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura Posner

posnerName: Laura Posner ’10

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.