Life after graduation: Catching up with four 2023 graduates

Lauren Smith

May 1, 2024

Charlotte Lee, Dante Mancini, Alayna Mikush, and Aaron Garrison graduated in 2023 with bachelor's degrees (and in Garrison's case a master's, too) from Carnegie Mellon's Department of Chemical Engineering. As they started their first jobs or pursued advanced degrees, the skills they learned during late nights in the ChemE undergraduate lounge proved as valuable as those they learned in their classes. Continuing the strong sense of community they experienced as students, they offer advice for this year's graduates.

Charlotte Lee

Source: Charlotte Lee

Charlotte Lee

Charlotte Lee works for Procter & Gamble as a technical engineer / equipment platform leader supporting the manufacture of Tide Pods. She manages and tests design changes to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing lines. "My work is on the 'making' side," she says, "involving the raw materials that come in and combine to make the final detergent formula that gets dosed into each pod." Lee interned with the same group the summer of her junior year at Carnegie Mellon. She capitalized on that experience to do advanced work in her first six months on the job. "I'm currently leading a high visibility, global project, and it's exciting to be making an impact so early in my career," she says.

Lee is based in Cincinnati, OH, and frequently travels to P&G sites in Lima, OH, and Alexandria, LA. She misses Pittsburgh and her ChemE friends, who scattered to different places after graduation. "It's just not the same as late nights spent working together in the Gary Powers computer lab," she says.

Lee's advice to the Class of 2024 is, "don't underestimate yourself." She says it can feel intimidating to go from being a senior in the most challenging classes to being the most inexperienced person on a team at work. "But you can bring a different perspective and a lot of technical skills that can set you apart," she says.

Two adults stand in a park in front of trees with colored foliage for fall

Source: Dante Mancini

Dante Mancini

Dante Mancini is a technical consultant at Accenture. Within the past year, he ran 2:54:49 in the Indianapolis Marathon, qualifying him for the Boston Marathon.

Mancini says he misses being close to his friends from ChemE and CMU, who moved to different places after graduation. He advises the Class of 2024 to keep in touch with a few close friends from CMU. "If you're in the same city, schedule weekly or monthly things to do together, or calls if you're not in the same city," he says. This spring, Mancini hiked Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park with his fiancee and two other CMU friends. He and his fiancee met at CMU and got engaged in the year since they graduated.

Mancini also recommends that this year's graduates network as much as possible. "People will remember you best if you help them out in some way. Your network will get you to where you want to go in life," he says.

Alayna Mikush stands in front of a research poster

Source: Alayna Mikush

Alayna Mikush

Alayna Mikush is preparing to start medical school in the fall. During a gap year, she's been doing research with a cardiac research lab at the University of Pittsburgh. "We study ascending aortic aneurysms in an effort to better predict dissection and improve patient outcomes," she says. Mikush is working on a bioreactor project that attempts to model aortic aneurysms ex vivo. "Working on this reactor has given me a chance to put my CMU engineering skills to the test, which I really enjoy," she adds.

Since graduating, Mikush has also taught herself to knit using YouTube. Reflecting on the sense of community in ChemE, Mikush says she forged strong bonds with peers and professors. She particularly misses hanging out and doing homework in the ChemE undergraduate lounge. "It was always a lot of fun even if we did have a lot of work to do," she says.

Mikush advises the Class of 2024 that it's okay to feel scared or lost when graduating. "You're not the only one," she says. "Embrace the change and dive in."

Aaron Garrison stands in front of an MIT building with large stone columns and a domed roof

Source: Aaron Garrison

Aaron Garrison

Aaron Garrison earned both bachelor and master of chemical engineering degrees in 2023. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Garrison's research focuses on predicting electronic structure properties of transition metal complexes, especially by developing machine learning models that can incorporate charge and spin information. He also works on the assessment and characterization of various quantum chemical and machine learning methods for transition metal complexes.

In December, Garrison had his first paper published: "Applying Large Graph Neural Networks to Predict Transition Metal Complex Energies Using the tmQM_wB97MV Data Set," in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. "My research efforts as an undergraduate led to a first-author paper and inspired me for what I want to study during my Ph.D.," he says.

Talking with his ChemE professors at CMU helped Garrison learn about paths available to him. "Once I had settled on research, they helped me decide what research area I wanted to pursue and what skills would be valuable for me in that domain," he adds.

Garrison advises the Class of 2024 to lean in to the computational aspects of the CMU education. "My coursework prepared me to use computational tools for solving chemical engineering problems, something that I use regularly in my research," he says. Through his undergraduate research and electives, Garrison also gained skills in machine learning and optimization, which he says have proven invaluable already.