Student spotlight: Ruby Perez-Fry

Lauren Smith

Nov 9, 2023

Ruby Perez-Fry

"Hands down, my favorite class I've taken at Carnegie Mellon is Formulations Engineering with Professor Tilton," says Ruby Perez-Fry. "It's a graduate-level course, but a lot of undergrads take it, too. We learned all about colloid science and the applications of it."

For their semester project, Perez-Fry and her classmates attempted to formulate a dishwashing detergent that would work as well as major brands. Understanding the applications of colloid science in the consumer goods industry proved very helpful to Perez-Fry in her most recent summer internship, working in research and development at Unilever.

"My project was reformulating Hellmann's Cilantro Lime Drizzle Sauce. I used a lot of knowledge that I gained in my ChemE classes, specifically my formulations engineering and colloid science courses," Perez-Fry says.

A young woman wearing a white lab coat and hair net stands in an industrial kitchen.

Source: Ruby Perez-Fry

Ruby Perez-Fry during her internship at Unilever. Her project was reformulating Hellmann's Cilantro Lime Drizzle Sauce.

The classes prepared her with the background knowledge to think critically and solve problems in interviews and on the job at Unilever and at Ingredion, where she worked as a quality intern the previous summer. "I think a big reason I was able to get these internships was that I spoke about the classes I've taken, how they are directly related to the internships I was interested in," she says.

When Perez-Fry came to Carnegie Mellon, she didn't fully know what chemical engineering was. "The Intro to ChemE course showed me things you can do with a ChemE degree. It's a super versatile degree, and you learn critical thinking skills," she says. "You can go into any industry with ChemE."

Perez-Fry plans to work in the consumer goods industry after she graduates next May. "I think it's interesting to work on products that billions of people around the world use every day. You can have a huge impact on people."

The Design and Making of Hair and Skin Products has been another of Perez-Fry's favorite classes. Taught through the Department of Chemistry, "it was very applied science and engineering, toward the products we use every day," she says. Each week in lab, they made a different product, including body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen, and lipstick.

It’s interesting to work on products that billions of people around the world use every day. You can have a huge impact on people.

Ruby Perez-Fry, Undergraduate student, Chemical Engineering

Perez-Fry balances her technical classes with an additional major in Hispanic Studies. "Growing up on the border in El Paso, TX, everyone around me was Hispanic. I'm Hispanic. My mom also grew up there and made sure to raise me with an appreciation for the city and its culture. I wanted to see how that culture can be analyzed in a more academic setting," she says.

Perez-Fry's father immigrated to the United States from Cuba, and she identifies with her Cuban culture. She's interested in different cultures and says she is learning a lot through her classes. "I'm taking a border studies class this semester, and I'm learning about events that happened in El Paso that I didn't even know about."

Outside of her classes, Perez-Fry has served for four years on the board of the CMU chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). As president this year, she is focused on bringing fun and engaging events to all ChemE students.

She plans to continue the alum speaker events that AIChE tested last semester. "We invite successful alums to come back and talk about their time at CMU, their early career, and how they got to where they are now," says Perez-Fry. AIChE also hosts social events like the fall festival to bring the ChemE community together during stressful times of the semester.

Perez-Fry notes that, because of the smaller size of the department within the College of Engineering, she has gotten to know all her chemical engineering classmates and professors well. "I think it's a really good environment for fostering relationships with people," she says.