Angela Maria Gutierrez
Doctoral Candidate, Chemical and Materials Engineering
Why did you choose to attend UK?
I was presenting my undergraduate thesis work at an annual conference (AIChE) and, after my presentation I met a UK professor who invited me to apply to his department. I then researched some more about the University of Kentucky and learned that the Chemical and Materials engineering department had a wide array of research possibilities, and provided excellent support for international students. The comprehensive PhD program would allow me to obtain my degree and continue expanding my education though other certificate opportunities, like Preparing Future Faculty. Also Lexington, though a much smaller city than my hometown, had a southern charm and a great horse culture that attracted me.
Describe the atmosphere of your department.
The Chemical and Materials Engineering Department is a great place to work/study in. Most professors are very approachable and glad to help you with any class/homework questions. As far as mentoring, you always have faculty support on your research. The ability to bounce back ideas between faculty and other PhD students makes brainstorming and problem solving much easier and provides a great way to broaden your research focus and approaches. We have a graduate student lounge for the engineering students where it is easy to interact with colleagues in a professional and social manner. I have had an excellent experience in the chemical and materials engineering department, where I feel at home and fully supported by faculty and staff throughout my research project and internship/fellowship opportunities.
Tell us about your current research.
My research at UK focuses on developing new nanocomposite materials that are used for capturing organic pollutants, mostly PCBs in contaminated water sources. We’re incorporating naturally occurring antioxidants, like polyphenols, things you find in berries and turmeric, as our binding capacity. So, we’re developing a material that’s easy to make, it’s cost effective, and it’s also a greener approach than current technologies.
While at UK, what opportunities have you had for professional development, research, or service?
As part of the University of Kentucky's Superfund Research Center, I have participated in several professional development sessions, interdisciplinary research and service opportunities around the commonwealth. For the past 4 years I've served as the secretary for the materials and chemical engineering graduate student association (MACE), where we promote faculty and student interactions in a professional and social setting, organize professional development workshops focused on CVs and interview preparation, we host an annual symposium to highlight our research projects where we interact with outside faculty and speakers, and actively participate in service through participation in local science demonstrations, science fairs and summits, and UK E-day. Additionally, as part of the engineering department I've periodically volunteer to judge science fairs and go to middle schools with science demonstrations. The opportunities to grow intellectually, socially and as an overall professional are vast and easy to access for anyone in our department.
What advice would you give to someone considering graduate school?
Graduate school will be the next 5 years of your life, not only academically but your social and emotional life as well. The quality of the program you're joining is very important, but the culture and how well you fit in it matters also. Reach out to faculty and current/former students, ask questions about academics, research and student relations, more often than none people will be happy to answer and help you.