Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois

Meet our students

Mai Ngo, Graduate Student


Entered Fall 2015.

Where are you from? What was your undergraduate degree and from which university?

I was born in Gainesville, FL (Go Gators!), but moved up to Blacksburg, VA in eighth grade. I stayed in Blacksburg to do my undergraduate work at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!). I got a BS in Chemical Engineering.

Why did you choose the University of Illinois and the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department?

I chose to continue in a chemical engineering program for my graduate work because I was really interested in the subject matter to which I was exposed as an undergrad, as well as the diverse range of research that chemical engineers can pursue. I chose UIUC in particular due to the great interactions that I had with the faculty and students during my visit weekend. Not only were there a handful of labs whose research interested me, but I could tell that the faculty members were really enthusiastic, excited, innovative, and passionate about research and mentoring. The students were also friendly, down-to-earth, and genuinely excited about recruiting me into the program. The energy and spirit of the department really won me over, and it’s been a great experience so far!

Tell us about your research interests. What lab do you work in and what is your role in the lab?

I have always been interested in health-related research. After exposure to polymers during undergraduate research, I knew that I wanted to combine health applications and polymeric materials in my graduate studies. As such, I joined Dr. Brendan Harley’s lab in October. I will be studying the behavior of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is a form of brain cancer. I will be developing a hydrogel platform in order to study how GBM invasion is influenced by interactions with vasculature, as well as the structural and chemical composition of the tumor microenvironment.

What are your plans after you receive your Ph.D.?

I would like to pursue a career in academia. Not only do I want to continue to pursue research as a career, but I have an interest in mentoring and teaching students. I also want to be able to promote the STEM fields, particularly to under-represented populations.

What’s your favorite thing to do around campus or in Champaign-Urbana? (Favorite restaurant, favorite way or place to unwind?)

The Arboretum is one of my favorite spots on campus; I can’t wait to see the cherry blossoms in the spring! And there’s so much good food in Champaign-Urbana. Green St., downtown Champaign, and downtown Urbana all have their distinct environments, and it’s been really fun to explore all of the restaurants in these areas.