Meet Katelyn Dagnall

Katelyn is a Rutgers School of Engineering student from Stewartsville, NJ who is studying chemical engineering. Here she talks about what it’s like to be a Rutgers student – and where she hopes her experiences will lead her in the future.

When did you first become interested in engineering?

I knew I was interested in STEM fields from a very young age, but it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I realized I was drawn to engineering more than anything else.

What drew you to the field of chemical engineering?

My mom was a high school chemistry teacher and Chemistry was a big part of my life growing up. I saw chemical engineering as a challenge once I got to college and as a chance to innovate as well.

I’ve always wanted to work in energy and particularly in alternative energy. Chemical Engineering is the clearest path to working in the energy field and has many other applications, in case I change my mind.

Why did you choose Rutgers?

I was looking to go to a school not too far from home with lots of resources. I knew Rutgers had it all.

What does your research involve?

I’m doing my research with a group of about 10 students ranging from PhD and grad students to undergrads. The official title of my work is "Quantum Photocatalytic Biomass Reforming on Titanium Dioxide." I’m studying the production of hydrogen fuel from biomass driven by solar power.

Being involved in research is such an important part of my undergraduate career. In the future, I hope to publish a paper with my results, and I’m seriously considering continuing my education as a PhD candidate.

What do you think first year students should know about chemical engineering?

One of the great things about it is you have so many different options for work. Many companies hire chemical engineers because we’re highly trained problem solvers. A major in chemical engineering allows you to go anywhere you want in the future.

What was your favorite course and why?

Transport Phenomena. If I had told myself in high school that I would be able to track fluid dynamics with ease, I would have been stunned. It’s just one of the amazing things I’ve learned to do here that I never thought I’d do!

Do you have a favorite professor?

Yes! The entire Rutgers CBE faculty is incredibly supportive, but Dr. Helen Buettner has made the biggest impact on my education so far. She teaches Analysis I, the intro course to chemical engineering, and engineers the course to fit her students. She encourages all her students to do their best.  

How do you hope to give back to future SoE students?

As president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), I’ve organized networking events with alumni and industry professionals that help students develop connections and learn about the professional world. When I see how much networking helps students, I know I’d like to continue to be involved like this – to come back and tell students what I wish I knew when I was a freshman.

What do you most wish you’d known as a freshman?

It’s okay not to know things. If you feel lost, and don’t know where you’re going, that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing opportunities. When you have an opportunity – go for it and don’t be afraid.

What is a favorite memory of your time at SoE?

Whenever AIChE has a big event or competition coming up, the members work so hard to prepare. Seeing my team come together and accomplish great things has been one of my favorite experiences at Rutgers.

What do you do for fun at Rutgers?

I’ve taken dance classes – ballet and swing – at Rutgers recreation center whenever I can.  If possible, I’d love to take all the dance classes offered before I leave Rutgers!