Grand Challenges Scholar
Class year: 2023
Major: Chemical Engineering
Challenge: Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
Can you provide a short summary of your project?
I focused on multiple engineered approaches to carbon sequestration that could be economically incentivizing without requiring serious legislation decisions to be viable. This includes my research in catalysts for carbon utilization reactions that can convert CO2 to value-added chemicals, and my entrepreneurship experience competing in the Elon Musk Carbon Capture X-Prize. I balanced these technical approaches with a minor in the environmental humanities and service as a campus EcoRep to understand the human and societal aspects of this global and reaching problem. This included interfacing with how climate change and climate change solutions impact our most vulnerable the most and finding ways to connect my technical understanding of the problem to non-technical audiences.
Why did you want to address this particular challenge?
My Grand Challenge in carbon sequestration particularly resonated with me as climate scientists now acknowledge that to meet agreements, not only do CO2 emissions need to be reduced but also carbon must be removed from the atmosphere. My desire to be a chemical engineer began with a desire to devote my career to tackling climate change. This Grand Challenge gave me the framework to attach myself to extracurriculars and opportunities that matched my career goal so that I could attach my undergraduate work to something larger.
What was the most important takeaway or thing you learned through the course of the project?
While the technical understandings I have gained are invaluable, the humanities work I conducted really heightened my education beyond a typical engineering undergraduate degree. Through my minor and service extracurriculars, I connected with so many passionate people tackling the overarching problem of climate change in vastly different ways. I met psychology students who had written theses about climate change anxiety, dance students making art to reflect on climate change, and policy students focusing on the legal decisions of climate change. I think this is what makes the Grand Challenge Scholars program unique from other undergraduate engineering opportunities, as it encourages thinking and experiences beyond traditional engineering skillsets that make future leaders in the engineering field more equipped to tackle the biggest problems.
Now that you are graduating, what are your next steps?
I am wonderfully excited that I have been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct fully-funded research at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark! I will develop novel catalysts necessary to develop commercially viable sustainable chemical production pathways. After a year in Denmark, I will be continuing on to a P.h.D. program where I plan to continue my work in catalyst and reaction engineering tackling some of the largest sustainability goals in the chemical engineering field.