In clear minority of students who loved our

In my undergraduate studies, I was in the clear minority of students who loved our
introductory organic chemistry course – infamous on campus for its mind-boggling mechanism
problems. The process of solving reaction mechanisms captivated me, tracing out arrows to push
electrons from one atom to the next. I was fascinated that we could predict the movements of
individual electrons through fundamental theories of quantum chemistry, and from there predict
chemical reactions and macro-scale phenomena. This interest in approaching complex problems
from their subatomic foundations, using the logic behind the movement of the smallest pieces of
a system to understand the system as a whole, led me to study chemical engineering. In the years
since that first organic chemistry class, I have continued to apply the mechanistic approaches of
chemistry to complex engineering problems, from water quality forecasting to building a solarpowered
home to catalyst design and, since graduating, to industrial polymer composite research.
I am eager to further my studies and to drill down into first principles once again – this time as a
PhD student, applying atomic-level understanding to advancing material designs for
environmental and alternative energy technology.
As an undergraduate at Brown University I completed an honors thesis under Dr. Andrew
Peterson in the Catalyst Design Laboratory. I sought to establish the underlying mechanism of
deoxygenation reactions on metal oxide catalysts to enable better catalyst design for upgrading
biomass-derived bio-oils. Using density-functional-theory (DFT) modeling, I investigated the
role of oxygen vacancies in facilitating catalytic bio-oil deoxygenation, demonstrating that
deoxygenation preferentially proceeds via a reverse Mars-van-Krevelen mechanism through
oxygen vacancies as opposed to a surface facilitated reaction. Understanding the critical role of
oxygen vacancies will help inform the design of new, more efficient deoxygenation catalysts. In
tandem, I performed laboratory experiments looking at deoxygenation of model molecules with
metal oxide catalysts in order to confirm the mechanism I elucidated via DFT. I enjoyed
designing experiments using complementary computational and laboratory tools to understand
fundamentals and explain macro-scale phenomena. The research that I collaborated on resulted
in my co-authored publication in ACS Catalysis and an additional manuscript currently under
review.
My interests extend beyond a traditional academic setting. During my sophomore and
junior year I participated as the Project Engineer for an entry in a student design-build
competition, the European Solar Decathlon. Throughout this competition, I applied my
foundational chemistry and physics knowledge to work with a team of students to create a netzero-energy
house. Through collaboration with architecture students and industry sponsors, I
created thermal and hygrothermal models of our building envelope that formed the basis of
critical material and building assembly decisions. The house that we created is now in
continuous use in central France. I found this convergence of academic theory and technology
inspiring not only because the materials expanded forms available to my architect collaborators,
but because they also elegantly solved the complex problem of sustainable housing starting with
foundational chemistry and physics.  After completing my undergraduate studies I wanted to explore the applications of
chemical engineering on an industrial scale. I joined Saint-Gobain as a Research Engineer in the
Surfaces and Polymeric Materials group, and during my tenure have worked on a variety of
independent and cross-disciplinary R&D questions. My responsibilities include developing a core research program interrogating the structure-property-processing relations in fluoropolymerbased
composites. I use laboratory experiments and a mechanistic understanding of polymer
chemistry to relate changes in microstructure to changes in product characteristics. This work
enables me to develop and leverage a number of processing and characterization techniques on
both pilot and industrial scales. My time in industrial R&D has helped me formulate research
questions in a new way – using differences in processing and performance to probe more
fundamental questions about material structure and properties. Moreover, my management
experience will assist me in developing and executing independent graduate research. At SaintGobain,
I shepherded process developments from concept ideation to laboratory-scale proof of
concept to pilot-scale manufacturing and finally toward full-scale technology industrialization.
This work has resulted in a provisional patent. I have also gained valuable experience in
managing laboratory resources, timelines and deliverables with multiple collaborators and
stakeholders, as well as a greater appreciation and awareness for the value of basic research in
informing industrial production.
In addition to my passion for fundamental research, I have also come to enjoy mentoring
and teaching others and plan to pursue a professorship after graduation. During my senior year, I
helped teach a thermodynamics portion of a building science course at Rhode Island School of
Design. Communicating across disciplines was key to the course’s success, and I particularly
enjoyed the challenge of guiding students toward efficient and performative designs without
imposing my own solutions. This experience confirmed my desire to eventually seek a
professorship where I can mentor, teach, and learn from my students. Additionally, I plan
continue to collaborate with industry leaders in my academic research. I believe in the power of
openly collaborative and fundamental science between academia and industry partners,
especially in creating commercially feasible alternative energy and green chemistry solutions.
I am particularly drawn to Yale because of the program’s strong focus on environmental
and energy applications of fundamental chemistry. Given the rapidly changing biophysical
climate, through my graduate and research career I hope to fill a niche left open by poor policy
decisions and sluggish adoption of renewable energy technology. I am particularly interested in
the research of Dr. André Taylor on catalytic polymer membranes and electrocatalysts. In a
similar vein, I am interested in the work of Dr. Shu Hu on photoelectrochemical catalysts and Dr.
Jaehong Kim’s research on photoelectrochemical hydrogen peroxide production. The field of
electrocatalysis is particularly interesting to me because of the huge gap in energy and power
densities that exists between current battery technology and chemical fuels. Using my background
in fundamental quantum chemistry and materials characterization, I am excited to work on material
design to help bridge this gap. I am also drawn to the intimate size of Yale’s program and the
opportunity that this affords to join and collaborate in a close-knit academic community. I am
convinced that Yale is the community that I would like to be part of for this next step of my career in
science.