First-Year Research

Meghan Tanguay, Chemical Engineering, COE ’21 //

Coming into Northeastern, I decided I wanted to major in Chemical Engineering without really knowing exactly what it was. I liked math and science in high school and I liked the sound of engineering, but I wanted to make sure that by the end of my first year I knew if Chemical Engineering was right for me.

The College of Engineering places a lot of focus on exploring the different types of engineering throughout the first year.  In the one-credit Introduction to the Study of Engineering class that all first-year students take, info sessions and lab tours are offered in each of the engineering disciplines. There are panels of older students who talk about their major and the co-ops they’ve done as part of it. In addition to all the resources provided for us, I wanted to do some searching of my own, so when the undergraduate research fair was announced, I immediately put it on my calendar.

The large Curry Ballroom is always absolutely filled with tables and poster boards for the research fair.  Graduate students and professors from across the College of Engineering display their research and undergraduate students are free to wander around and figure out what labs they’re interested in applying for. I put my name down for a few different labs and ended up completing an application for two.

I ended up joining Professor Choi’s Nanomaterial Laboratory for Catalysis and Advanced Separations as an undergraduate research assistant.  Throughout the year, I worked with a couple of different grad students synthesizing, collecting, and analyzing metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. It was my first time working in a lab beyond high school experiments and I learned a lot, from how to keep a lab notebook to how to operate an FTIR machine and analyze the results.

At the end of each year, the Research, Innovation, and Scholarship Expo (RISE) takes place. RISE is an undergraduate poster competition that allows students from all over campus to show off the research they’ve been participating in all year. Another first-year student and I put together a poster with support from one of the Ph.D. students in the lab, focusing on MOFs made of metal ions and organic ligands that are safe for the human body and the potential applications of these MOFs. We presented our poster to a couple of judges, as well as students, professors, and community members that were walking around the Expo. We also got the chance to learn about the other cool research going on across campus.

I’m now in my fifth year, and I’ve continued to be involved in research throughout my entire Northeastern experience.  It helped me confirm that Chemical Engineering was the major for me during my first year. But it’s continued to be a rewarding experience even once I was confident in my major.  I’ve learned how to use a variety of analytical tools, I’ve worked on published papers, and I’ve become incredibly familiar with laboratory techniques and safety.

Cover image from RISE 2019 Photo Gallery.

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