For months prior to my Princeternship, I had been debating which type of engineering to
choose. I have always been interested in the automobile industry, and was considering majoring in chemical engineering with a focus on fuels and alternative energy sources. Thus, the Princeternship with Exelus, Inc. was the perfect opportunity to learn more about chemical engineering in fuel development. Coming into the Princeternship, I really did not know what to expect. I had never done any research—independent or guided—and I wasn’t sure where to draw the line between chemists and chemical engineers. I knew that Exelus, Inc. developed catalysts and processes to create chemicals for fuel synthesis, but my experience working with Princeton graduate Belinda Slakman ‘10 showed me a snapshot of the engineering world, and how methodical research is carried out.
The main project that I assisted with was styrene reactions in reactors and through gas chromatography analysis. We prepared catalysts through metal exchanges and used these catalysts to prompt reactions with styrene. The end product of these reactions is used in modern transportation fuels. In addition to performing styrene analysis, I also learned about data modeling through mass balancing and reaction rate laws, chemical alkylation, photocatalysis, and biomass fuels. It was amazing how many separate projects were all being researched and carried out at the same time within Exelus, Inc.
The most valuable point in this experience was learning about the transition from
university to career, and how to apply knowledge from Princeton to the demands of the modern workplace. Coming into this experience, I did not know what to expect regarding the actual research of chemical engineers, and now I have a much clearer idea of the type of career path I want to pursue. I would highly recommend the Princeternship program to any and all Princeton students who want to learn more about a field, and I would love to participate in a similar experience in the future.