Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Official blog of the Lehigh University Chemical Engineers


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Girls Run the World!

I have a fabulous opportunity for all of the female college students out there! Lehigh offers a summer research program specifically for girls! It’s called the Clare Luce Boothe Research Scholars program. The website says “Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholars are a prestigious group of women undergraduates of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. A rigorous selection process identifies high-achieving women engineers to become Clare Boothe Luce Scholars for a two-year period, beginning in the summer after their first or second year of study.” It has just been opened up to third years as well!

Think the application progress is probably too rigorous? Think again! First, in order to apply you must meet the following three things:

  1. To be a U.S. Citizen
  2. No specific plans for Medical School
  3. At least a 3.0 GPA

As for the application, this is all you need:

  1. A personal statement about why you want to participate and your career goals
  2. A faculty mentor and support letter from them
  3. A copy of your transcript

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! Even if you aren’t sure of your summer plans, no one is going to force you to accept, so why not give it a try?! There are some great benefits that come with it, but I won’t do all the work for you, check it out yourself at http://www.lehigh.edu/engineering/research/undergraduate/cbl/index.html.

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An Hour a Day Keeps the Failure Away

So like every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I was awoken at 7:00 am by the lovely beeping of my alarm clock. I had to give up on my cell phone alarm because I sleep through it, but staying awake is another issue for another blog. At 8:00 am, I have organic chemistry. The normal reaction to an early class is some derivation of the following: “EW 8:00 am?!!!!! GROSS.” Before this semester, I felt the same, and still do sometimes.

Anyway. As I was in orgo today, my professor was talking to us about the tests we just got back. He recommended studying 1 hour every day for orgo. I was thinking to myself, “Yeah that’d be great, but tell me when I’m supposed to do that amid all my other classes.” Because honestly, if you think critically, I am in 5 major classes right now. So 1 hour a day for each of those is 5 hours a night. Let’s say on a lab day, when I’m done at 4:00 pm, I do this. That takes me until 9:00 pm, not accounting for food or texting breaks or the desire to have a life. Furthermore, any homework sets take at LEAST 2 hours. So if we combine the studying, homework, and breaks, that brings us to around midnight.

That doesn’t work for me. I am a girl who needs her 8 hours of sleep. So, how do I do this? Here is my proposition, and I am going to do it to the best of my ability until my next set of midterms and let you know if there has been a noticeable improvement.

I plan to do 2 hours of studying a day, with subjects corresponding to classes that I had that day. So on Mondays, I will dedicate an hour to organic chemistry and physical chemistry. Tuesdays/Thursdays, an hour to material balances and analytical methods. Wednesday, will be the exception, with 3 hours: orgo, pchem, and my history class.

As for weekends, I suppose I will try to do an hour each. So that results in around 3 hours per class a week. Doable definitely. Will it be a hard adjustment? Probably. But grades matter, so put in the work!


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Organic Chemistry Lab

For the entirety of my Sophomore year, my friends who were taking Organic Chemistry, also known as orgo, always complained about it. The class itself, but also the lab. They would all say “This lab is too much work for one credit.” or “You won’t know what hit you once you get your reports back.” So needless to say, this year when I walked into lab for the first time I was shaking in my boots.

My thoughts after being in it so far: does this lab require more than any lab I have taken previously? Yes. Is it stricter than my labs previously? Yes. Do I think that this is necessary? Yes. I do.

This lab, even though we’re barely half-way through the semester, has taught me a lot about proper lab procedure, new technology, and making the most efficient use of your time. Each week, you can bet your bonnet that some information or technology that you used in a previous week will pop up somewhere in the current week’s lab.

Sure, there is a pre-lab, write-up, and quiz due every week, and multiple tests throughout the semester, but for any science or lab job, this is going to be practical and useful information.

Nothing to complain about in my opinion. Have a good Wednesday! Guess which test I have tomorrow? Orgo lab!!

~KCL~


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Internship

So last time, I posted about how the internship interview that I had was really stressful. The whole internship process is kinda stressful to be honest. You may not get the first one or two or three that you apply for, but it’s important to keep up the determination and keep on applying. As of now, I have applied to 8, and only received 1 interview.

While this may sound like a lot of work, the majority of applications are the same. I would say one of the only things you really have to change is your cover letter. As for those, I have a blanket couple paragraphs about my resume and  personal skills, but have a specific paragraph that I modify for each company that I apply for. Writing one paragraph isn’t that much work. I have one pdf file of my resume that I use for every application.

Not trying to crush your spirits, but don’t expect replies for every internship you apply for. Last year, I hardly got any. I would suggest that if it is a position that you are extremely interested in, and it’s been a month or so since you’ve applied, then email the company asking when you may hear a reply. This is not annoying, it shows that you are interested and willing to go after what you want. The key to getting an internship is being a little bit aggressive.

Happy internship hunting! It can be hard and a little bit disappointing, but don’t give up. Your dream internship is waiting for you!


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Interview

So yesterday I had my first internship interview. I was a little nervous, only because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Usually, I am very good with answering questions on the spot, but this wasn’t a basic interview. I wasn’t expecting it to be 3-on-1, but it was. That created some more nerves because it’s harder to connect with 3 people than it is with 1 person.

When it came to the basic interview questions, I was pretty much fine. It was the usual, tell me about a time when you [insert typical interview question here.] The goal there is to tell of an experience  that makes you look good while answering their question.

The technical questions were the ones that threw me off just a bit. I’ve never had those in an interview before, and for those of you who may not know what that is, it’s basically a question like the following (thanks google for providing this for me): “You want to build a pipe through a mountain. What issues would you need to overcome to make this happen?” The goal of these types of questions is to see how you think through problems, but the hard part is expressing your thoughts. Writing things down is encouraged, definitely take your time to think about it. And when it comes down to the common question, “what if I have no idea how to answer that?” I would say, according to some research on the good, old internet, don’t try to fool them. Be honest, say something along the lines of, “Based on my limited knowledge of the subject, this is where I would start, [give them something], and from there I would have to research that problem a little bit more and get back to you.”

Interviews can be tough and overwhelming, but each one gives you some experience and insight. Did I nail my first one? Eh, I would give myself maybe like a 5/10, but I feel very confident that I could do better on the next one.

Good luck interviewing!


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Finally Putting the Pieces Together

I remember a few times freshman year when professors would tell me, “oh, you’re going to need this later on!” or “pay attention to this! You’re going to use this all the time!” For some reason, I didn’t think they were telling the truth. I’ll let you in on a little secret: THEY TOTALLY WERE. If I had to describe the college experience in a nice metaphor, I would say that college is like a puzzle.

Freshman year, you’re going around and finding the pieces you need. You don’t know what you’re going to be using for, you’re literally just acquiring them and holding them in your possession, maybe even forgetting that they were there. This is basically referring to the pre-requisites, the humanities requirements, and the literature seminars that you need to take. The “you don’t know when you’re ever going to use this again in your life” kind of classes. You don’t take them super seriously because you’re thinking, “this isn’t related to my major, so who cares.”

Sophomore year, you’re finding some more pieces, but you’re finally starting to figure out that eventually you’re gonna need to fit everything together. You see a match here or a match there, but you don’t have all the pieces quite yet. This is referring to you finishing up all of the basic courses, and taking a few major class. There may be some overlap between new material and old, but mostly you’re just starting to see some connections.

By junior year, you’re really aware that the objective is to complete the puzzle. More and more matches are starting to be obvious to you. You could have the entire border of the puzzle done, picking up the final pieces as you’re marching through. More and more overlap is starting to occur. Those double integrals you learned back in Calculus 2 are popping up in physical chemistry. The partial derivatives you learned in Calculus 3, literally mentioned in all of your classes. Trends of the periodic table in Chem 1? You need to know that too.

Finally Senior year, you’re finishing that puzzle. You finally see what the picture is, and you’re so close to being done. By the time you graduate, you have an amazing and completed (hopefully) puzzle! With the image of course, being your major.

Now I’m clearly not an English major, due to my fairly simple metaphor shown above. But the message that I hope got across is the following: college isn’t a bunch of individual classes that you have to take and pass. College is learning the basics and constantly building on that knowledge until you finally learn what you need to know to call yourself an engineer, or a biologist or fashion designer. Don’t think that because a class is a basic level, that it isn’t important!


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Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium Rd. 2

This Wednesday the 2nd round of the undergraduate research symposium took place in grand fashion at the Steps concourse. There were more than 30 teams each presenting their hard work of research and projects. It exhibits the intensive qualities of Lehigh engineering students. It’s also a perfect demonstration of the exciting research opportunities Lehigh offers to undergraduate students. I found my ChE friends proudly presenting their work. In fact, two ChE groups presented on their excellent work on the senior design project.

One of the groups’ design project topic is Dry Methane Reforming. It’s a process that produces syngas by reacting carbon dioxide with hydrocarbons such as methane. According to Martin Halmann, In recent years, increased concerns on the contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming have increased interest in the replacement of steam as reactant with carbon dioxide.

The other group presented on Bio-production of 1,3-propanediol (PDO). Typically, PDO is produced from Ethylene Oxide, which ironically is the final product of my design project. Recently, companies started to invest in production of PDO from renewable sources such as corn. In fact, the picture of the carpet square in the slideshow below is an example of what can be made from bio-produced PDO. It’s very fluffy and awesome.

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