Interdisciplinary opportunities attract Chem E grad student

Bret UleryWhen Bret Ulery finished his undergraduate education at the University of Iowa with a BS in biochemistry and a BSE in chemical engineering, he found himself in high demand as a prospective graduate student. Bret considered offers from engineering programs across the country. Ultimately he chose Iowa State because of the opportunity offered for interdisciplinary research

During a prospective graduate student visit at Iowa State, Bret met with Professor Balaji Narasimhan, who had recently received a grant requiring bioscience and chemical engineering research. Accepting the opportunity to work with Narasimhan placed Bret as a chemical engineering graduate student on the interface with immunology, microbiology, chemical, and materials engineering research.

In a lab on central campus, Bret works with Narasimhan, four other graduate students, and one postdoc to design degradable polymer particles for vaccine delivery for biodefense applications. At the Iowa State veterinary college, Bret works with a second research group consisting of two faculty, two immunology graduate students, and one research associate to complete the in vitro and in vivo aspects of the research.

The interdisciplinary components of Bret’s research have opened myriad opportunities for presenting and publishing. So far, Bret has presented at meetings of the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Microbiology, and the Society for Biomaterials. His first peer-reviewed journal article was published in Pharmaceutical Research. By the time Bret finishes his chemical engineering PhD he will already have submitted numerous articles to peer-reviewed journals. Eventually Bret hopes to become a professor.

Bret has two suggestions for prospective engineering graduate students: (1) find a major professor you really get along with, and (2) find a project you love. With those key components in place you will find it easy to work hard.