Neeru Chaudhary, a graduate student in chemical engineering, has been appointed as graduate student director of the Chemical and Reaction Engineering Division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). A doctoral candidate, she came to WSU after receiving her master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, which is one of the top 10 universities in India. She is working with Associate Professor Jean-Sabin McEwen in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

Neeru Chaudhary in front of trees.
Neeru Chaudhary

Q: Why did you choose WSU for your graduate education?
A: During my master’s program in India, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the United States. My brother, who was doing his master’s in the U.S. at the time, also encouraged me. I started looking online and searched the top universities in chemical engineering in U.S. and narrowed the list to 20, then to 10, and finally applied to five of them. I joined WSU as it offered the research that I was interested in pursuing as a Ph.D. candidate.

Q: What is your field of research?
A: I’m working with Professor Jean-Sabin McEwen. My research is focused on the production of economically feasible biofuels generated from catalytic conversion of biomass, a promising candidate for mitigating the current energy crisis. Our field of research is computational, where we model the systems from an atomistic and a macroscopic point of view.

Q: How did you get your position as the graduate student director for the American Institute for Chemical Engineering?
A: The AIChE conference happens every year and this year I was nominated by my advisor for the Catalysis and Reaction Engineering travel award. When I was at the conference, I gave an oral presentation and was able to talk to a lot of professors and professionals in my research field. When I returned, I received an e-mail saying that my name was brought up during the AIChE board meeting for this position. I think I got the position based on my resume and the letter of recommendation from my advisor that I used for applying for this travel award.

Q: What was your reaction to getting the position?
A: I am really excited. My role is to promote division activities and actively engage in the meetings to help guide decisions. In particular, we are expected to help grow the division amongst younger engineers through online activities (website, social media). As a grad student, I believe we’re not only responsible for delivering good research in our respective field, but we also must encourage and inspire young and prospective engineers and researchers. It is important to create awareness about future research areas that we need to focus on.

Q: What have you learned at WSU that will help you in the future?
A: At WSU, I gained various skill sets in computational tools that will help me to be a more independent researcher. Collaborating with other research groups from WSU and other universities helped me develop a better perspective regarding my research work. I have been given the opportunity to attend conferences to present my work and meet with leaders in the field, which I believe will help me further establish myself as a professional.

Q: What advice would you give to future chemical engineering graduate students?
A: It is important to understand what research area you are passionate about. You should give enough time to think and match your skill set to your research interests before joining graduate school. It’s also important to be aware of current research areas that are being focused on, in your respective field and motivate your interest toward the needs of the hour. For example, ten years ago, we were mostly interested in developing medicines and energy but now almost all our research in any field is becoming inclusive of sustainability and the protection of the environment.

Q: What are your career goals?
A: My first preference would be to join research and development or in the technical sector of the chemical industry. However, I am also keeping my options open to work for national labs or Universities.

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