In 1979, a group of Carnegie Mellon Chemical Engineering graduate students saw an opportunity to help their fellow students. They knew there was a need for a place where students could showcase the work they’d been doing in the lab, a job that had always been left up to faculty. So they decided to take on the responsibility themselves, and that year, the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (ChEGSA) Symposium was born.
“The first symposium was a modest beginning, being primarily intradepartmental,” says Peter Hays, chemical engineering Ph.D. student and one of the organizers of the 2020 ChEGSA Symposium. “But it soon grew with the participation of industry professionals. Since then, the symposium has become a key part of the CMU Chemical Engineering experience. Today, it’s one of the largest and most successful research symposiums among major universities.”
Historically, the annual ChEGSA Symposium has featured graduate student presentations that highlight research from across the department in a variety of areas, including biomedical engineering, computer-aided design and optimization, environmental engineering, solid-state materials, and colloids, polymers, and surface science. Included in the program, along with the student presentations and keynote addresses, is a poster session, and a luncheon for industrial sponsors, student presenters, faculty, and staff.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requiring many on-campus events to go remote, however, the ChEGSA Symposium is prepared for a new change. This year the two-day event, held October 1st and 2nd, will be fully virtual. And while this changes the format, Hayes and the other symposium organizers Rose Doerfler and Yanxin Li are excited for this new opportunity. Not only will the symposium still be running all of its regular events, but thanks to the virtual format, it will now be open to an even wider audience of both industrial and alumni guests.
“The symposium is an amazing opportunity for students to present their research to a diverse audience,” says Hayes, “which fosters both an exchange of ideas and an appreciation of the complexity of work being done in the field. Further, students are able to network with industrial guests, and these industrial guests have the opportunity to meet and interact with our graduate students outside of a formal recruiting context. This is a consistently attractive feature for both graduate students and industrial participants, and this year is no different.”
At the conclusion of the symposium, three awards will be given to the best student presenters, as well as two honorable mentions. All of the awards are determined by faculty and industrial representatives serving as judges. In addition, there is an award for the best student poster.
“At last year’s symposium, I spoke with one of our industrial guests,” says Li. “She told me that before coming, she expected technical presentations tailored for experts, which could easily bore general audiences like her. But every talk was interesting, and she was able to get a good understanding of the various projects being conducted in the department. She said she was very impressed by our students’ presentation skills and would definitely be willing to come in the future.”
Industrial guests, alumni, and members of the community are invited to attend. For more information on the symposium and how to register, check out the ChEGSA website.