Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Illinois

Danielle Mai receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Chemical Engineering graduate student Danielle Mai is a 2013 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship recipient.
Danielle Mai
Danielle Mai

Mai, who is a member of Assistant Professor Charles Schroeder’s research group, said the fellowship will help to fund research in fundamental polymer engineering, specifically with branched polymers, which are frequently found in packaging and consumer products.

“In Professor Schroeder’s lab, we are developing techniques to better observe and understand branched polymers in flow,” she said. “This research could provide crucial insight toward designing polymers with desirable processing responses and improve the manufacturing of everyday materials.”

Schroeder said he believes Mai has proposed a particularly challenging and interesting research project that focuses on a molecular understanding of branched polymer dynamics.

“Her work holds the potential to fundamentally enhance our understanding of complex fluids engineering, which could lead to improved methods of processing materials at the industrial scale,” he said. “Danielle is an outstanding student with strong leadership potential in the field of chemical engineering.”

Leadership is one of the criteria that NSF looks for when selecting graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

“This fellowship recognizes Mai’s potential for success as an academic researcher,” Schroeder says. “The NSF is investing in her future, as a leader in the field, and the fellowship will enable her to achieve success in research.”

Mai says being selected to receive the fellowship is an honor and one that will help move her education and career forward. “I want to communicate scientific ideas that will spark innovative research and positively impact the general public,” she said. “I am fascinated by working on the cutting-edge of science.”

She says working with mentors helped her early in her educational career. She says she credits Dr. John Goudie at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center for introducing her to research while in high school and the late Professor John Daida at the University of Michigan who “sparked my passion for mentoring, teaching, and bettering the world through engineering.”

She also noted her current advisor, Professor Schroeder, who she says “has played an instrumental role in my research and in supporting various pursuits of mine, from authoring a review article to presiding over this year’s GSAC board.”

She says her passion for research, teaching, and mentorship are leading her to consider a career in academia but for now, she’s keeping her options open and is ready to begin her NSF Fellowship. “It’s an honor to join the ranks of phenomenal researchers,” she said.