Chemical Engineering Student Spotlight: Vidhya

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Meet Vidhya, a chemical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh. During her college education, she completed internships, co-ops, and undergraduate research. Read on to find out more about his studies in chemical engineering!

Vidhya Thiyagarajan, chemical engineering student

What were your favorite subjects growing up in middle school and high school? And why?

My favorite subject growing up was definitely science. I found myself curious about sightings in my daily life and discovered that science explained most of them!

Who was your biggest influence during your college/high school years? Why?

I have two biggest influences. First of all, my father who is a chemist. He nurtured and deepened my interest in science as I grew up by encouraging me to ask questions. My older sister is also one of my biggest influences. After realizing my interest in science, she first introduced me to SWEWNext in 9th grade, and I created a SWEWNext Club to continue exploring my interests through hands-on challenges, talking with companies and engineers premises and even by organizing awareness-raising events. From these experiences, I learned how valuable engineers are to society and how much fun they have every day solving problems, and I knew I wanted to study engineering!

Why did you choose to study chemical engineering in college?

In high school, I decided to study chemical engineering because I was interested in chemistry, math, and engineering. However, I did not finalize my decision until my freshman year of college.

During our first year of engineering at Pitt, all students attend a weekly seminar where we learn about the different engineering disciplines we can study and attend open houses for each discipline. Through this experience where I talked to different professors and students, I learned that chemical engineers can have such versatile career paths and are needed in all sectors of industry. In addition to my interests in engineering, realizing that a chemical engineering degree can provide me with such a flexible career reinforced my decision to study chemical engineering.

What has been your favorite class so far? Why?

My favorite class is thermodynamics. I love learning why things work the way they do, which is exactly what thermodynamics taught me! I found the course challenging and rewarding and equipped myself for future courses where I applied these principles in courses such as reactor design and kinetics.

What do you hope to do with your degree once you graduate?

I would like to work in a research and development position after graduation. However, as I mentioned, one of my favorite things about getting a chemical engineering degree is the flexibility and the many options I have for my career path – so, I’m very interested in explore other avenues throughout my career!

What was the most difficult obstacle to overcome in university as a female engineer? How did you meet the challenge?

Some of my obstacles came when I finished my first work-study program and realized that there were very few female engineers working in the same department as me. I did not encounter this obstacle in my courses at Pitt because we have a very diverse student population within the engineering school. However, sharing my experiences and learning from the experiences of others within my community at PittSWE has inspired me and allowed me to use my diverse background to make new positive contributions to my projects and to the crew ! I realize that having diverse perspectives within a team can be invaluable to the company and I am happy to have my community within PittSWE to support me!

What advice do you have for young people today who want to get into engineering?

Be curious and flexible! My curiosity is what inspired me to study engineering and what continues to motivate me throughout my career as I work to apply what I have learned now! I also think that flexibility is important so that we can take advantage of all the opportunities. It’s great to have a plan and a goal to work toward, but being flexible will ensure we take advantage of any open doors, which can lead to something much more rewarding!

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