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Rebecca Cantrell of Houston, obtained a Ph.D. in chemical engineering
Why did you choose Cornell?
I wanted to be in a university environment where I could take almost any class I wanted. I was very attracted to the diverse academic and extracurricular opportunities, such as Intro to Wines and the sailing courses here, which not every university is fortunate enough to have.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have accepted a job with Dow Chemical in Newark, Del. I'll be a senior engineer working on the chemical mechanical planarization process, which is a method that significantly improves the performance of electronic devices. In 10 years, hopefully I'll still be with Dow Chemical working on newer projects and furthering my impact in science and technology.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
The 'Valentine's Day Storm' of 2007 - we had nearly two feet of snow in 24 hours. By 10 a.m., the university still hadn't closed, and students were skiing along sidewalks and sledding down the slope. Such a storm might normally horrify someone from Texas, especially one experiencing her first Ithaca winter, but I remember it being incredibly fun. It seemed a testament to the energy of the school.
Why is your research area important/why are you passionate about it?
Organic semiconducting materials are a growing area of research, with applications for organic light emitting diodes, organic field effect transistors and organic solar cells. In a world where electronic devices and energy needs have shaped our lives, being involved in these research applications makes me feel like I am making a difference, albeit a small one.
While at Cornell, what extracurricular activities or other accomplishments were important to you or you are most proud of?
I have published three papers as first author in refereed journals, and have two more on the way this year. I was nominated for teaching assistant of the year in March 2008 for leading a senior chemical engineering lab, and won the Austin Hooey Graduate Research Excellence Recognition Award in December 2010. I got the chance to study Mandarin Chinese; it's a very challenging language, but I got a hold of it toward the end. I wanted to travel to China in January 2011 to be able to speak it to native people. I went to Egypt instead (since it was pretty cold in China that time of year), leaving just two days before the revolution broke out. Outside of Cornell, I competed in two half marathons, two Cayuga Lake sprint triathlons and a Cayuga Lake Olympic-distance triathlon. Also, in my first couple of years at Cornell I was active in the East Hill Flying Club at the Ithaca airport. I became licensed to be a private pilot in summer 2006 and working toward my instrument rating in the years following. During that time I gained a lot of respect for the complex systems and safety procedures involved in flying. I also got the chance to share flying in Ithaca with other Cornellians, an experience not easily forgotten.
What does your dissertation or thesis cover?
My research involves multiscale computational studies of nontraditional (organic) semiconductors, especially the optimization and understanding of manufacturing processes used to fabricate electronic devices and design improved semiconductor materials.