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Opening doors to the future

BERKLEY BOUND: Queen’s engineering graduate Madeline Howell will be starting work on her Master’s at UC Berkley in the fall. The research experience she earned as an undergrad helped her earn that spot and to decide whether research is the right path for her.

 

 

By Natalie Tanczak

Since 1995 Queen’s University has provided job opportunities to undergraduate students through the Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP). The program allows students to gain valuable work experience and can also help them to define their post-graduation career goals. A prime example of this is engineering student Madeline Howell.

After her first year at Queen’s, she earned a SWEP job on which got her first taste of the world of research. Under the supervision of Queen’s chemistry professor, Simon Hesp, she not only helped with research into the properties of asphalt, but even had a small research project of her own.

“By the end of second year, I was really interested in the research process, so I approached Queen’s engineering professor, Pascale Champagne,” says Howell.

Champagne helped Howell apply for and earn an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award. Howell continued working with Champagne until her graduation from Queen’s in 2017. Together they explored the effects of various wavelengths of light on the growth of algae that could in turn be used to treat municipal waste water or to produce biofuels. It’s work that could make waste-water treatment safer and more effective and lead to alternative clean fuel sources.

“Right now there is a lot of research on how to optimize the growth of algae to ensure it is financially feasible,” explains Howell.

In fall 2017, Howell is set to begin work on her Master’s at University of California, Berkeley. As for the future, she says she is trying to keep her options open, but is considering pursuing her PhD or going into the industry.

To undergraduate students considering pursuing research or graduate work, Howell offers some advice.

“Approach any professor whose class you’ve enjoyed because most of them are looking for students,” explains Howell. “Doing research at the undergraduate level helps you prepare for graduate school, so just try it out in the summer. You have nothing to lose at this point and it’s worth seeing if graduate studies are for you.”