December 2, 2013
While taking classes is one way to meet new people and stay involved during college, some students choose to become members of student organizations, often taking leadership roles in those groups.
Students in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois are leaders in various engineering registered student organizations on campus.
For senior Eugene Swisher, joining Omega Chi Epsilon (OXE) during his sophomore year was a great choice and way to branch out into other organizations. OXE is the national honor society for chemical engineering and promotes high scholarship (members need a 3.3 GPA), integrity, and leadership.
Swisher is president of the 30 member group that hosts events throughout the year. “Many of us have had internship experience and good connections in industry,” Swisher said. “This allows us to come up with unique opportunities for our members.”
He says he came to Illinois because the chemical engineering program is highly ranked, and the University is close to his hometown of Columbia, Missouri. He plans to graduate in May 2014 and will work at PepsiCo in Valhalla, New York as a research and development engineer.
Dr. Jerrod Henderson, a lecturer at Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois, says having students serve on these organizations is beneficial to their educational career. “Student organizations help make our students well-rounded and provide them with opportunities to develop as young professionals outside of the classroom,” he said.
Society of Women Engineers (SWE) President Supriya Hobbs said she was led to chemical engineering because of the design aspect of the field. “Science searches for a solution to a problem, but engineering creates one,” she said. “The ability to design something to solve problems and improve lives attracted me to chemical engineering.”
The Society of Women Engineers is a technical, professional, social, and outreach organization at Illinois, with more than 14,000 members nationwide. Hobbs joined the society as a freshman where she led engineering activities for kindergartners at Leal School in Urbana. “The variety of events that SWE hosts meant that I could be involved for several years and not get bored,” she said.
Highlights of the group include attending the society’s annual conference that brings together more than 6,000 female engineers; this year 52 Illinois students attended the event. The Illinois chapter of SWE won nine national and two regional awards at this year’s conference. Each spring the group hosts Night of Networking where students can network with companies while attending dinner and workshops.
Upon graduating in May from Illinois, Hobbs will be a Process Engineer at Eli Lilly & Co. in Indianapolis.
Senior Takeya Green and president of The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) says she joined the organization because she wanted a group to help her through the early academic struggles. The group helps to increase the number of black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
“NSBE is my second family,” she said. “We all are always with each other, we do a lot of social events with each other, and even after graduation, everyone still stays in contact with each other.” Green, who graduates in May, will move to Houston, Texas to be a process engineer at The Dow Chemical Company.
Joining the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) led to senior Erica Peterson meeting some of her best friends at the group’s ice cream social during her freshman year. AIChE is the world’s leading chemical engineering professional organization; undergraduate students join AIChE for free to network and learn about the organization.
For the 2012-13 academic year, the student chapter earned an outstanding chapter award for the third consecutive year. The award was presented at the national AIChE conference and given to 16 of the approximately 200 active student chapters in the United States.
As the current AIChE president, Peterson said she enjoys spending time studying and visiting in the AIChE office and how AIChE hosts corporate events from meetings to tailgates to mock interviews and coffee chats. “It gives our members a great opportunity to learn about the company and the chance to meet some of the recruiters.”
Peterson will join General Mills, Inc. in their Metheun, Massachusetts plant outside of Boston following graduation in May.
Department Lecturer Dr. Troy Vogel says that chemical engineering at Illinois includes “students who are some of the brightest in the nation.” “Teamwork and working with others is an important characteristic that employers look for when hiring,” Vogel said. “Many of our student leaders have jobs secured half way through their senior year, six months before graduation.”
Students in the chemical engineering program are leaders in other registered student organizations including Adam Dornford, vice president of Illinois Biodiesel Initiative and president of out in Science and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; Ayesha Mumtaz, external vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Juan Ralph Alhambra III, president of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers; and Hector Fuster, president, National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.