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Research, service common among CHE ‘outstanding students’

A group of four men and two woman pose for a group photo.

College of Engineering Dean Jim Thompson and Chemical Engineering Department Associate Professor Paul Chan pose were on hand to honor the outstanding chemical engineering students for 2013, from left, Zachary Thacker, Jacob Neth, Kate Nolan and Chelsea Pepmiller.

Two undergraduate students and two graduate students were recognized as the Outstanding Students from the Chemical Engineering Department at the Missouri Honor Awards banquet, which capped-off Engineers’s Week 2013.

Outstanding junior Chelsea Pepmiller has been an active member of the MU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) for the last three years. Currently, she is SWE’s director of recruitment and will serve as president next year. She also has served as a peer advisor in the Engineering Learning Community for the last two years, teaching freshman interest groups and serving as the students’ mentor for their freshman year.

Pepmiller said what interested her about chemical engineering was a desire to do more work with chemistry — an interest generated in high school — outside of a lab.

“I am happy with my decision and am looking forward to starting my design courses next year so that I can solve unique problems using the chemistry and other courses I have taken,” she said.

Pepmiller also is involved in the Mizzou Engineering Student Council (MESC) as vice president of communications; the chemical engineering honors society, Omega Chi Epsilon (OXE), as vice president; the engineering women’s sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE); and is an Engineering Ambassador.

She added that receiving the outstanding junior award was an honor, especially knowing that her work was recognized and valued by the faculty.

Outstanding chemical engineering senior Kate Nolan  is this year’s SWE president. She said her interest in chemical engineering began as a teenager, “after years of math competitions, Space Camp and participating on my middle school’s Science Olympiad team.”

She participated in a Mizzou Engineering Awareness Night in St. Louis in 2007 and MU Engineering Summer Camp the following year. MU spoke to her love of chemical engineering, as well as German, music and college sports.

“Mizzou Engineering felt like a place where I wouldn’t be a number or a statistic, but rather a place where I could become a leader,” she said.

Nolan was involved in the Discovery Fellows undergraduate research program from 2009-2011, and she is currently an engineering ambassador, a member of OXE and plays piano at Campus Lutheran Church. After the initial shock of receiving the award, Nolan said she now understands the significance of the honor.

After graduation, she will begin working full-time for the Boeing, Co., in St. Louis and plans to join SWE’s professional chapter.

Outstanding master’s student Jacob Neth followed the advice of his high school chemistry and physics teacher to pursue engineering.

“After learning about the different departments, I was intrigued by the difficulty and versatility of a chemical engineering degree,” he said.

Neth works as a graduate researcher in the lab of chemical engineering professor Patrick Pinhero. Before earning his bachelor’s degree from MU in 2011, he was involved in OXE, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honors society.

“I feel honored [receiving the award] because I have a lot of respect and admiration for the work that other graduate students in the department are doing,” Neth said.

Outstanding doctoral student Zachary Thacker earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2010. While an undergraduate, he knew he liked chemical engineering and was interested in pursing a career in that field. However, after finishing his undergraduate career, Thacker said he decided he wasn’t finished learning.

“I approached Professor Pinhero and began working under his advisement,” he said. “As much as I enjoyed my undergraduate learning experience at Mizzou, I’ve enjoyed my graduate experience even more.”

Thacker is set to graduate in December and is currently working on Pinhero’s nanoantenna/rectenna research. He said he hopes to develop a new way to harvest electro-magnetic radiation, such as infrared heat or solar light, and convert it into usable energy.