Thursday, October 1, 2015

Semester Study Abroad: Part 4 of 4

My final activity in Colombia was perhaps the most surreal and exciting of all.  During my last weekend in Colombia I had the privilege of working with the Purdue All-American Marching Band as a translator and organizer during their visit to the Feria de las Flores, a large flower festival in Medellín.  Through the hard work of many Purdue staff members and students, the city government of Medellín, RutaN, and the organizers of the festival, over 200 members of the marching band performed in city plazas, at a local flower farm, and at the start of a bike race.  A small part of the band and I were even able to attend a luncheon with some of the most powerful industry and academic leaders of Colombia and Purdue.  However, the most impactful performance for me was in the amazing flower parade that marks the end of the festival.  The band selected to perform two of the theme songs of the festival, and they could not have made a better selection.  The spectators of the parade were so excited they were shouting the words to the songs and applauding louder than I have heard at any other parade in my life.  Some even began to dance and throw flowers in admiration for the band.  I had goosebumps the entire time.  
Through this experience I was able to share a small taste of the culture I have fallen madly in love with during the last 7 months with a group of people from my favorite university.  I also am extremely happy because I feel that Purdue University has left a significant impression on the people of Medellín and Colombia.  I could not imagine a more exciting or meaningful end to my experience.
However, I know this isn’t the end.  With the experiences I have had and the connections I have made, I am working to create a successful career in Colombia.  And all of this is thanks to our old Purdue.  Boiler up.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

SWE Senior Sleepover

My name is Katherine Rothe, and my first year at Purdue, I joined the Society of Women Engineers to connect with other young women in engineering. The great thing about SWE is that there are plenty of opportunities to be involved, and one of the best ways is to be a hostess for Senior Sleepover. Every fall and spring, SWE hosts a group of high school seniors looking at Purdue for engineering. 
Being a hostess honestly made me wish I had done senior sleepover while I was trying to decide where to go. It is an opportunity to get the college experience for 24 hours: going to classes, sleeping in a dorm room, eating in a dining court. But there are plenty of other opportunities to have fun during the Senior Sleepover, from activities with the other girls to scavenger hunts for iconic Purdue landmarks. 
A group of my friends decided to be hostesses together last year, and all of us had so much fun showing off our beautiful campus to prospective students. Senior Sleepover is a great experience for both future and current students. 

This year's Senior Sleepover will take place November 13th-14th. The Senior Sleepover Chairs are looking for female engineering students to help out with the event. Hostesses are required to live in the dorms, but there are plenty of other ways to get involved besides hosting!
If you’re interested in volunteering, as either a hostess (both days or just Friday), or as a day volunteer (Saturday only), you can sign up here: 
If you have any questions about Senior Sleepover, please email Mallory Slavis at, or Amy Cox at 

Friday, September 25, 2015

My IR Experience: by Abby Trusler

For many engineering students, these past couple of weeks have been a pretty crazy time. We are in the midst of IR, or Industrial Roundtable, the career fair here at Purdue. IR is aimed at engineering students, although other majors do attend. As a sophomore attending IR, I was extremely nervous. This was the first year I was actually hoping to score some interviews and eventually land a summer internship. It can be intimidating at first, approaching the recruiters, promoting yourself, and hoping to make an impression. As a sophomore, I have no prior engineering experience; I was worried that many employers would turn me away immediately. I approached my first booth to warm up and try out my “elevator pitch”.  The recruiter for Colgate-Palmolive and I hit it off immediately. I was surprised that all I had to do was be myself. Unexpectedly, at that booth, my first of the day, I got an interview. It was a wake up call for me. The more comfortable you are, the better it will go. All I had to do was relax and be my normal, outgoing self. Now, I obviously did not get an interview at every booth I approached, but overall, the day was a success. The key: be confident in who you are, the skills you possess, and what makes you the best candidate. If you embody those elements as you talk with the recruiter, you will surely make a good impression. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Semester Study Abroad: Part 3 of 4

As a member of the Office of Professional Practice’s Global Engineering Alliance for Research and Education or GEARE program, I must complete an international research or internship experience prior to graduation.  I can chose to fulfill this requirement in any country that I would like to, but I chose to look for opportunities to extend my time in Colombia.  Thanks to a very proud Purdue industrial engineering alum originally from Medellín, I was connected with Grupo Nutresa.  Grupo Nutresa is a food processing conglomerate and the fourth largest food company in all of Latin America in terms of market capitalization.  It also is consistently named one of the best companies to work for in Colombia.  I successfully completed an interview in Spanish with one of Grupo Nutresa’s divisions, Compañía Nacional de Chocolates, and was hired as an operations intern for the summer of 2015.
Marissa (on right) with her supervisor
For my internship, I worked in a smaller town outside of Medellín named Rionegro in Compañía Nacional de Chocolates’ largest production facility.  I lived many students’ dream, and for ten weeks I worked in a chocolate factory.  The factory produces a wide array of products focused on chocolate, nuts, and cereal bars.  I was concentrated in the nuts zone.
My internship was so valuable, for both my professional and personal development.  I received the normal benefits of putting my engineering education into practice and gaining work experience, but I also learned much more than that.  I developed enough of a technical vocabulary in Spanish that I am now able to comfortably write technical reports or give presentations in Spanish.  I learned how to relate to and work with coworkers who not only spoke a different language than me, but who also were accustomed to an entirely different work and professional culture than mine.  In fact, it was an invaluable lesson for me in being flexible and adaptable to the professional situation I am placed in.  I also had the opportunity to work on a joint project between research and development and operations and was able to put my English fluency to good use as I served as the sole point of contact with a United States based provider for a new raw material.  
As an intern, I was given a large amount of responsibility and allowed to work on activities that branched outside of my field of study.  I also have made great international contacts for a potential career in South America.  And all of this was made possible through the Purdue network.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Class to Career: Explore Your Engineering Interests through Internships

I recently shared how I  decided to study Chemical Engineering. After touring labs and plant sites at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, I was interested  in learning how to scale chemical processes from the lab bench to a manufacturing site. My internships have indeed spanned from lab bench to manufacturing, including experiences in  industry that I wouldn’t have imagined just 4 years ago.

Close to 400 companies came to campus last week for Industrial Roundtable – one of the largest student-run job fairs in the nation. The Industrial Roundtable provided me the opportunity to connect with a variety of employers these past 3 years for internships to explore my interests in Chemical Engineering.

Internships give you the opportunity to learn more about a company and a role for a few months while working on an exciting project. Do you wonder what it would be like to work in research & development? Experience R&D or undergraduate research for a summer. Interested in working in the automotive industry or pharmaceuticals? Find an internship and give it a try! 

Take advantage of opportunities in college to explore your interests. Now is a great time to learn what you like (and also what you might like less). These experiences will help you find a career path you enjoy.

Internships in Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineers learn skills suited for many different roles, including research and manufacturing. Many Chemical Engineering students will work as Process Engineers, where they are responsible for a specific process or piece of process equipment – working on improvement projects and  addressing any day-to-day problems in the plant. Other students will conduct research or develop new processes. 

I’ve learned something new about opportunities for Chemical Engineers each summer as I interned in different functions. (Click through to read more in previous blog posts about my experiences!)

 R&D Technology Development – After my freshman year, I worked with an organic chemist in Beauty Care Research & Development. I worked in a lab, designing experiments to develop a material to be used in anti-wrinkle lotion. I was excited to return to Purdue that fall and apply the techniques I learned in my Organic Chemistry lab.

Products Research – The following summer I experienced a different role in Beauty R&D in Product Research. I developed a survey and conducted focus groups with women to understand what women liked and wanted in their anti-aging products. I analyzed these results to help develop technical requirements for the engineers in the lab to improve our products. 

 Process Modeling – This past summer I had the opportunity to work with manufacturing sites in process modeling. I developed a biotech capacity model and scheduling tool for a manufacturing facility to help identify process bottlenecks and opportunities for process improvement projects.

I attended Industrial Roundtable one last time this fall. From the lab bench to manufacturing sites, I’ve learned a lot these past four years. I look forward to many new experiences in Chemical Engineering ahead!

Stay tuned for my next post about how to get the most out of your internship!

-Beata Strubel

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SWE For You and Me

As another syllabus week comes and goes, I reflect back on my time at Purdue. I’m going into my super senior year in Industrial Engineering. Long story short, I did not come to Purdue for engineering. In fact, I spent my entire freshman year undeclared and looking into other majors. Engineering was my #3 spot on the potential major list. Before I officially joined the College of Engineering, I joined a student organization called the Society of Women Engineers to see if engineering could be a good fit for me. At the time, I was attracted to the free food more than anything. I attended a few meetings here and there and did my best to keep up with all the events going on. It was nice to be around at like-minded girls my age and hear their stories and passion for engineering.
 It wasn’t until the first few days of First Year Engineering that I knew I had truly found the right path. That excitement reflected in my desire to be involved with SWE. I did my best to attend more events, ran for a chair position, got said chair position, and it was all up from there. SWE kept me from going crazy on weeks where I had more homework than hours in a day with social and outreach events to get me away from my desk. It helped prepare me for finding an internship with the many professional networking and development events as well as grow me as a young professional. I have made great friends and met inspiring women while in SWE. For me, SWE is a support system, a challenge to make me a better engineer, and a facilitator to make me a global citizen. 
 Every year, the Society of Women Engineers continues to grow in membership and event size. So for all those future engineers, I highly encourage you to check us out; join and learn what SWE is about! Thinking of your future can be scary, but remember you have 400 other women engineers who have your back.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Semester Study Abroad: Part 2 of 4

By Marissa Berns
Hello again,
Recently I published a blog post briefly describing the academic side of my semester abroad in Medellín, Colombia.  Although studying was an important part of my semester, I was able to create an entirely new and different experience with the activities I did outside of class.

Normally study abroad students take advantage of their time in their host country to travel, and I was no exception.  From the beautiful beaches of Cartagena to the ornate Las Lajas Sanctuary in Ipiales, and the salsa clubs in Cali to the unique small towns of Antioquia, I was constantly amazed at the natural and manmade wonders of Colombia.  Even the backdrop of the Andes Mountains makes Medellin, a city with a population almost equivalent to that of Chicago, appear absolutely stunning.  Traveling in Colombia is also surprisingly inexpensive.  One night two other Purdue students and I shared a hotel room for the equivalent of two dollars per person!  I highly recommend visiting Colombia to everyone, regardless of your budget.  But traveling was not my only extracurricular activity.

Many Purdue students are unaware that Purdue University has created an extensive agreement with businesses, governmental agencies, universities, and nonprofit organizations in Colombia to complete a variety of projects benefitting both Colombians and Boilermakers alike.  If you are interested in learning more, refer to the Colombia-Purdue Institute.  The Purdue Corporate and Global Partnerships also has the director of Colombian Partnerships and Engagement Office stationed in the beautiful, modern RutaN building in Medellín.  There, in a black and gold decorated office, Liliana Gomez Diaz works as the main point of communication for Purdue in the country.  Liliana hosts visitors from Purdue and other universities that are working on projects in Colombia.  She organizes efforts for initiatives across the country.  Liliana even helps connect past and current Boilermakers with each other and the resources they need.

In our first month in Medellin, Liliana invited the Purdue-EAFIT cohort to visit her at the Purdue office and treated us to a typical Colombian lunch.  At this meeting she began describing all of the amazing projects that Purdue is working on in Colombia.  I believe we were all amazed that our beloved Purdue was doing so much that its students are unaware of.  From this meeting, I was connected with two groups that helped shape my time in Medellin.  
The first of these is a research group in the Universidad de Antioquia.  The group is comprised of PhD and post-doc candidates in chemistry and chemical engineering.  All of them know English very well, but were looking for a way to practice their speaking skills.  Because of this, myself and two other Purdue students, Paul Krogmeier and Desarae Diedrich, began teaching an English class once a week focused on pronunciation, word choice, professional writing, and conversational speaking.  In exchange, the students offered dance lessons in salsa, merengue, and vallenato among other Latin styles of dance.
The second group Liliana connected me with is a group of Colombian students who participated in Project Interchange.  Project Interchange is an initiative working to bring more STEM education to the low-income areas of Medellin.  Free STEM classes taught by university professors, professionals, and even some Purdue graduate students (via Skype) are offered at local libraries.  As a reward for attending the classes and completing various other requirements, a small group of students has the opportunity to travel cost-free to Purdue to tour campus laboratories, interact with Purdue professors and students, and learn more about the possibilities in STEM fields.  For many students, this is their first major trip outside of Medellín and for nearly all, their first time in the United States.  The first cohort of students to visit Purdue arrived in July of 2014.  Upon their return, they had a strong desire to continue learning and practicing English, but found it difficult to find people to talk to.
Very soon after my arrival in Medellin, this group of students became my second English class.  Mark Adams, a fellow Boilermaker, and I spent about two hours each week teaching basic level English to these students in the Purdue office.  Because of our shared love for Purdue and Medellín, the students, Mark, and I found that we truly enjoyed our time together.  Soon we were meeting outside of class to visit the neighborhoods where the students live and the library where the Project Interchange classes were taught.  We also explored the city on mopeds and spent evenings in local parks together.  Throughout this time I watched as their English and my Spanish improved, and these students became some of my best friends in Colombia.
Thanks to my travels and the two English classes I was able to add another dimension of learning and fun to my study abroad experience.  I highly recommend to anyone studying abroad to seek out extra-curricular activities that are challenging and give another insight into the local culture.