Chemical engineer, Barrett Honors student, and former FURI researcher Felicia Romero has been conducting research under Dr. Matthew D. Green. This March, she took her research to San Diego, California to present her research poster titled, “Engineering Ion-Containing Block Copolymers as Next-Generation Water Purification Membranes” at the 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition. After returning, Felicia shared the details of her experience with the FURI team.
In layman terms, what was the conference about?
While the conference housed thousands of presentations on all types of new discoveries related to chemistry, the theme this year was Computers in Chemistry. This was to illustrate how computer research leads to a vast variety of advances in chemistry fields, e.g. food and nutrition, medicine, health, energy, the environment, etc.
What motivated you to present at this conference?
My research advisor put the idea in my head. I agreed that it sounded like a fun idea to get out and share my experience in undergraduate research with the scientific community.
Tell us about some of the presentations you attended.
One of the most meaningful presentations was by a panel of innovative women in STEM fields; whether you were looking to enter academia or industry, they provided excellent advice on how to approach career decisions at any stage of your life. For any career, they stressed the idea of being “T” shaped rather than “I” shaped, that is, your field (major) and skills make up the vertical line, but the horizontal bar represents your ability to work across different disciplines. College is an excellent time to participate in extracurriculars and take advantages of opportunities in order learn about other fields than just your own.
Another interesting presentation was on the biochemistry spectrum; a research group is looking to “break” the diphtheria-causing bacteria by preventing its ability to uptake iron by targeting a specific protein. Since iron is an essential element required for the bacteria’s survival, this could lead to a method to exterminate a bacteria that still causes a great deal of illness in developing countries. My research deals with polymer science engineering and I know very minimal about biochemistry, so it was unifying to communicate with an area of research on the other end of the spectrum through common scientific principles like enthalpy.
What do you think was the best part of the conference?
I received a Distinguished Poster nomination in the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering division! I didn’t win the award, but it was still an honor to be recognized as an undergraduate among primarily graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The nomination symbolizes that I fell within the top 10% of poster presentations in this division.
Has your involvement with this conference influenced your research plans?
Attending the conference made me second-guess my decision to enter industry rather than pursue graduate school immediately, but regardless of my decision, the most important takeaway was to never stop learning. Attending a conference as massive as ACS exposes you to so many new ideas and areas of knowledge, that whether in industry or academia, there’s always something new and exciting to learn so pay attention!
Is there anything you wish you knew prior to the conference?
I wish I had a better sense of how to navigate the conference and to plan for; I did not plan our schedule for attending my division’s award ceremony, which apparently is a fun event held at every national meeting.
Any suggestions for other students regarding conferences?
If you have the chance to go, take it! It’ll require effort to prepare your presentation, apply for funding, etc, but it is definitely a rewarding experience that helps you understand research is bigger than your lab on campus. With the available resources at ASU through Fulton, Barrett, and even the Undergraduate Student Government, you’ll be taken care of.
Start your conference adventure today with the Undergraduate Research Travel Grant!