Grand Challenges Scholar

Catherine Milas

Catherine Milas standing next to her poster presentation.
Catherine Milas, chemical engineering

Class year: 2023
Major: Chemical Engineering
Challenge: Engineer Better Medicines

Can you provide a short summary of your project?

I focused on various aspects of engineering better medicines, in terms of biomedical research within targeted drug delivery while also exploring the design process associated with creating a new pharmaceutical drug. I felt it was very important to broaden my scope regarding the design and development of pharmaceutical drugs. As a result, my project focused on different steps in the design process. 

Why did you want to address this particular challenge?

As a chemical engineer, we graduate with a set of skills that are applicable to so many different fields. For me personally, I’ve always been drawn to the field of pharmaceuticals even before I officially enrolled at the U of R as a chemical engineering major. My younger brother is autistic and epileptic, so growing up I was always curious seeing how a tiny tablet could improve some of the issues my brother was facing - like how a tiny Prozac tablet could lessen his anxiety symptoms. This curiosity sort of stuck with me throughout the course of my life and really enforced my desire to be a chemical engineer.

What was the most important takeaway or thing you learned through the course of the project?

Participating in GCSP really highlighted how interconnected so many of my undergraduate experiences really were. Whether it was serving as an officer in the Society of Women Engineers and helping organize a biomedical engineering event for young elementary students, helping create an iZone challenge that highlighted the design process involved in designing a medical device, or participating in computational biomedical research, all of these experiences were intertwined and amplify completely different (but equally as important) aspects of “engineering better medicines.” As engineers, I think we sometimes tend to limit our scope of solving grand challenges facing society to only research or scientific discovery. However, this program helped me realize how much bigger tackling a scientific challenge is beyond just research, its scope consists of various different competencies that engineers can play active roles in.

Now that you are graduating, what are your next steps?

After graduation this year, I’ll be starting my PhD in chemical engineering at Columbia University in the fall. I’ll most likely be doing a mix of computational and biomedical research (primarily computational) with applications in targeted drug delivery.