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Spotlight on Students: Meghan Barton '17

Barton (far left)

  • Affiliation: Chemical Engineering
  • Hometown: Hudson Falls, NY

Why Cornell?

When considering a major as a senior in high school, I chose to pursue engineering because I like to help people and solve problems. I chose chemical engineering because I enjoy and excel at chemistry. With this decision in mind, I decided on Cornell University because I knew that Cornell would provide a great engineering education. I knew of Cornell's Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering reputation for high standards, and my respect for the program and its professors has only grown throughout the years. In hindsight, I am especially glad that I chose Cornell because I appreciate the ability to combine biological and chemical engineering knowledge, which is not common to all chemical engineering curriculums. 

Leadership positions held at Cornell:

The first formal leadership position I held at Cornell was as an AIChE class representative during my junior year. During senior year, I was a teaching assistant for Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics. However, to many of my classmates I am probably best known as the student most likely to ask questions (along with Meghan Pierson)! 

Major accomplishments as a leader: 

As an AIChE class representative, I was mindful not to simply be a bystander in the executive board meetings. I represented my class with ideas and suggestions of course, but also with feedback about practical limitations of junior -and sophomore- schedules with AIChE events. This was something I felt was lacking prior to my attention because most executive positions were held by seniors. 

By far the most challenging leadership position was as a Thermo TA. I was well-prepared to explain correct answers to the juniors as I had taken the course only one year prior and understood the material well. However, I was unprepared to explain why some of their answers were wrong. It was definitely a different way of looking at Thermo! I needed to prepare myself by considering how I would do problems correctly, and then determine how to explain where it went wrong.

Personally, I believe I accomplished most as the class questioner. It certainly helped me to learn and understand the material better, but apparently it helped others too! I determined this during junior year after multiple people independently thanked me after a Process Dynamics and Control lecture for asking some clarifying questions. I guess the professors that encourage questions because "everyone else is probably wondering the same thing" are telling the truth!

Advice for future student leaders: 

1. Find a balance! If you're at Cornell, you're an overachiever. If you're in the Chemical and Biomolecular department, you're a super overachiever. Plan for the future, but not at the cost of all present happiness. You made it this far, so you are smart and capable. Hold yourself accountable for your performance because you will get out of your education what you put into it. But don't make yourself unhappy to meet someone else's expectations. 

2. Don't wait for someone to appoint you as a leader. Lead even without recognition. Ask questions.

Post-graduation goals:

Immediately, I plan to travel some this summer. I already have plans to hang out with my Senior Design group in Washington, D.C., and I will go to Cuba later this summer with my family. 

After this summer of fun, I intend to work in the pharmaceutical industry. I have focused on biological applications of chemical engineering during my undergraduate career, and have completed research in the DeLisa Lab which I enjoyed. I hope to be able to continue research which improve healthcare. 

Favorite Olin Hall/ChemE memory:

There are so many to choose from! Some of the most memorable include: Banagrams in the undergrad lounge with Carol Casler, wings over a late night problem set (also in the lounge), Casino Night, ice cream at Purity with my Senior Design group, the CBE Holiday Party, and senior year Holi. 


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