Student Conference Highlights
It is an honor to be the faculty advisor of the University of Florida’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Since I became affiliated with the Chemical Engineering Department, I knew that I wanted to become their faculty advisor. I once was the president of the AIChE student chapter in Puerto Rico, so I understand the importance of this role for the students and the professional organization. The opportunity to be the constant presence and memory for an organization seems to be one of the highest contributions that I can make to our professional organization and the professional formation of our students. You can visit my previous blog on Advising Engineering Student Organizations to get some hints on how to become a faculty advisor.
This year #AIChE2020 Student Conference (November 13-15) did not disappoint in offering varied and engaging programming in a virtual format. I am not going to lie, it was challenging. Besides the amazing career opportunities, AIChE also offers our students networking events with peers from other universities and amazing researchers and industries. Missing that face-to-face networking was really tough. However, I want to say kudos to the organizers, faculty, industry, and students for trying their best to make the most out of the many networking opportunities AIChE has to offer despite COVID-19.
Outstanding Chapter Awards
Winning the Outstanding Chapter Award is one of the best recognition our chapter can have. This year the Student Chapter Committee picked 19 chapters from more than 100 domestics and international chapters combined. This will be our fourth consecutive year, since 2017, that we have won this recognition. I have to say, my students rock! They are committed, and they see the added value AIChE provides to their professional portfolio. I hope that my commitment to the profession and leadership in AIChE national inspire them to be involved.
I see my role in all of this is mostly to pass over good practices for success and provide a historical perspective on leadership and guidance. I am also their biggest fan and always make sure that I share their accomplishments on Twitter and LinkedIn! I am in constant communication with the team leaders and participate in their Slack channel.They enjoy seeing my social media posts. I honestly do this to make them feel validated that what they are doing is important for our university and the profession as a whole. You can visit the Chapter Website for more information.
K-12 Outreach Showcase Competition
The K-12 Outreach Showcase Competition started in Fall 2019 as the first initiative of the AIChE K-12 Outreach Community. Because of my short involvement with this committee, in the beginning, I was able to encourage my students to put a module last year. Last year’s module was on exposing middle school students to the design of a humanitarian water filtration system. Lots of cool chemical engineering FUNdamentals such as separations, materials science topics, and fluid dynamics. Even though we did not win the AIChE National competition in 2019, my students shared the module with local schools and museums. For me and my students doing outreach is so rewarding. This first module encouraged my student chapter to develop a new module for this #AIChE2020 competition. They worked very hard during the summer to develop a meaningful module for society and interesting from a chemical engineering perspective. Due to COVID-19, the chapter decided to focus their volunteering efforts on a Local Blood Drive Campaign with Life South. This inspired their new module called Saving Lives with Centrifugation. This module’s purpose was to demonstrate the process and physics behind centrifugation in the context of blood processing. Their goal was to teach all students what happens during and after donating blood to create awareness of local blood donations.
To our surprise, we ended up winning the 9-12 grade competition for this year! I want to mention that this team completed everything by themselves with no intervention from me. I only provided guidance on important milestones the team needed to accomplished based on the competition timeline. They did the planning and execution of the project. Once again, our students rock! Their design is based on a humanitarian initiatives implemented in Africa many years ago. I am extremely proud of them! If you want our group do do a virtual session or visit your school in Florida after COVID, please contact them at: Outreach.firstname.lastname@example.org Besides doing the module, they can talk about how engineers, especially chemical engineers, contribute to developing new technologies that save people’s lives. You can watch a video demo here:
Freshmen and Sophomore Student Awards
This year we also took home two awards, the Freshman Recognition Award and the Sophomore Academic Excellence Award. Both awards are based on the recommendation of the Student Chapter Advisor.
The Freshman Recognition Award is presented to one AIChE student member in each student chapter who has been the most active in their student chapter during his/her freshman year. This year Sean Kochanowsky was recognized with this honor. During his first semester as a freshman, I met Sean when he volunteered to be part of our Outreach Activities celebrating Girls in Engineering. Since then, he became part of our Outreach committee and of the winning team this year! Watch the YouTube video above so you can see him and his team in action! Teaching others how to be an engineer actually helps you to become one yourself! He has a bright future in our organization!
The Sophomore Academic Excellence Award is presented to the one AIChE student member in each student chapter who has attained the highest scholastic grade-point average during his/her freshman and sophomore years. This year Zachary Lambert was recognized with this honor. I know Zach because of his involvement and leadership in the Marketing Committee. His team has done a terrific job on the website and ramping up alternative communications to help students cope with the times of COVID-19. Check out a summary of all the marketing efforts concerning all the subcommittees within the organization.
Connecting with other faculty advisors
The last highlight from the conference was the opportunity to connect with other academic advisors. AIChE does great work coordinating and supporting individual chapters, regional, national, and international efforts. In these meetings, we discuss details about the logistics of the event offered to our chapters, providing an opportunity for faculty, like me, to potentially shaping future efforts in undergraduate involvement within the professional organization. You also mingle with other advisors that can mentor you while you are building your new chapters. This year, there were many conversations about challenges with communication, engagement, and mental health in the times of COVID-19. I really like to be involved in these conversations because I can share information on how the AIChE Education Division addresses some of their concerns.
Well, this concludes my highlights for the weekend at the AIChE Student Conference. Now shifting gears to the Annual Professional Conference and my involvement in the Education Division, and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion efforts.