For Laura Bolling, junior chemical engineering major, undergraduate research has been a part of her collegiate career since freshman year when she started seeking out research and shadowing opportunities. Bolling searched for interesting research projects until she landed on one that peaked her interest, “I thought Dr. Jaime Grunlan’s work [on layer-by-layer assembly of polymer-based nanoscale thin films for gas barrier applications] was interesting, so I emailed him to discuss [it], and he gave me an opportunity to spend a few hours a week learning about his research. I ended up really enjoying it and accepting a position as an undergraduate assistant,” said Bolling.
After working with Grunlan on his research, Bolling set a goal to present at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Professional Conference and reached it. She was accepted to the 2012 conference and was able to attend the conference in Pittsburgh with the help of the George Bush Presidential Library and an Undergraduate Research Travel Award from HUR. After returning from the conference Bolling wrote this letter to HUR, showing her gratitude for the opportunity;
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to express my genuine gratitude for the financial support I was generously granted to attend the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Professional Conference. I am incredibly honored and thankful to receive support from such charitable donors.
The experiences from this conference have provided a wonderful compliment to my university coursework by giving me the opportunity to go across the country and gain a more universal perspective and understanding of chemical engineering and the research being completed. As a result of attending this conference, I have been exposed to entirely new ways of thinking and attacking problems, but I was also particularly impressed by the ways the engineers were tackling problems like post-surgery infection or desalination with the goal of making the world a better place by creating and inventing something completely new. I identify with this tenacity, and although I have completed 15 months of research, the ability to go and see the breadth of the research community is making me further consider the idea of graduate school.
Personally, I was also thrilled with the opportunity to present my work to some of the top researchers in the world. I had to conquer some major fears to present to these people who were far more advanced than me, but by the end of my second presentation, I enjoyed being asked questions about our projects, and I will remember the moment that some established professors made comments about applying some of our knowledge to their projects for a long time. Through just speaking with these professors, I was also able to continue to network and set up some laboratory visits [to] further understand their research. I may end up working for them one day.
Thank you again for your selfless support of my well-rounded education. My goal is that by participating in programs like this one, I can learn to thrive in new situations and be fearless when encountering new things and ideas because it is [through] these experiences that innovation lives and grows.
Bolling encourages all students to get involved in research and seek out opportunities, mentors, professors and scholarships that can help them reach their goals. As for Bolling, she plans to graduate in December 2014 at which time she will decide to either continue her education or move straight into the industry, “In the meantime, I’ll keep learning and being involved in campus organizations.”