Congratulations to Varun Harnathka for completing his Masters of Engineering in chemical engineering with a specialty in energy economics and engineering! Varun is originally from Guntur, Indian. At... Read more about Commencement Spotlight: Varun Harnathka MEng
Meet Catherine Gurecky: former CBE undergraduate and M.Eng. student to P&G
- Hometown: Colleyville, TX
- Robert Frederick Smith school of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Where did you grow up?
When did you become interested in engineering?
I can’t remember an “ah-ha” moment, but I became interested in engineering from a very young age. Science and engineering run in the family, and my parents and brother showed me many examples of how engineering can be applied to help improve the world around us. In sixth grade, we were assigned to write letters to our future selves, and I wrote “I want to be a Chemical Engineer.” From that point, my interest in science, math, and engineering only grew, and, by the time I was applying to colleges, I was still confident that I wanted to be a Chemical Engineer.
What made you decide to enter the MEng program at Cornell?
During my junior and senior years of undergrad, I narrowed my career interest to consumer product development after enjoyable and challenging internships with Procter & Gamble. I became very interested in the intersection of chemical engineering and business, but I did not begin exploring this through my electives until late in my undergraduate years. The MEng program’s Product Design Specialization allowed me to craft a curriculum unique to my interests and develop valuable skills specific to my career goals.
What is your most memorable experience as a CBE MEng student?
My most memorable experience is a tie between the virtual holiday party or the virtual graduation celebration. Although many of us never got a chance to meet in person, we were able to come together from across the country and still have fun and build a sense of community. We all got some much-needed laughs at the holiday party after a challenging year!
What was your favorite class or project?
My favorite class was Concepts of Chemical Engineering Product Design. This class taught practical skills for product design that I apply to nearly every project at my job. The Shark Tank final project was a fun and creative opportunity to intertwine marketing, business, and technical skills into one product pitch. I had the opportunity to TA this course the following year, and I enjoyed witnessing the students’ innovative ideas throughout the semester.
What did your research focus on as a graduate student?
My MEng project was a partnership with Tazzy Candy, a company founded by Cornell alumnae. I worked on developing vegan, sugar-free hard and gummy candy formulas with clean sweeteners unique to the industry. The project challenged me to understand ingredient chemistry, build design of experiments to find the best formulation, and combine these technical learnings with consumer perceptions of ingredients and taste.
What do you feel are the biggest strengths of the MEng program?
The biggest strength of the MEng program is the breadth of classes and project topics available to students. This allows for specialization in many different industry-relevant spaces, which I believe helps MEng graduates like myself stand out from day one in our careers.
I was also impressed by the MEng program’s collaborative, community-rich environment. Both professor to student and student to student informal mentorship were common. The faculty were focused on ensuring that each student had the support needed to achieve their post-graduate goals. I’m confident that I built valuable relationships during the MEng program that will last far into my professional years.
What led you to P&G and what is your position?
I now work as an Associate Scientist in Products Research and Development for Procter & Gamble Feminine Care. I had three internships with P&G prior to joining their team full-time, and each of my experiences with P&G were rigorous, yet enjoyable. I continue to be impressed by the amount of technical rigor that P&G pours into product development. I find it rewarding witnessing how my Chemical Engineering background can help improve daily experiences for consumers.