Lauren Pompilio ’15 Explores All Corners of Engineering

April 15, 2015

Above all else, engineers are problem solvers. Their interest in finding solutions typically can’t be limited to any one particular area. Take Lauren Pompilio ’15, a chemical engineering senior. In her time at College of Engineering and Computer Science, she’s delved deep into her major’s course load, but she’s also taken advantage of a bevy of learning opportunities outside of her program. For example, when she discovered the work that was being done in Professor Melissa Green’s fluid dynamics lab, she found herself drawn into research on coronary artery stents that was a cross between mechanical and bioengineering. On another occasion, Pompilio tackled sustainability by participating in an O’Brien and Gere-sponsored student competition to develop a way to minimize carbon emissions. She and her team of fellow engineering students proposed a solution to send carbon into a bioreactor with algae to be used in conjunction with a gene to cause fluorescence as a possible replacement for streetlights. Behind it all is an innate love for math and science as well as a true curiosity about the world around her. We met with Lauren to learn more about her experiences at Syracuse University and to uncover what’s she has gained from her diverse experiences in engineering and where she hopes they will take her. Q: What led you to chemical engineering at Syracuse University? A: I chose SU because I love the size and the atmosphere. When I told people that I was going here, they'd say "oh, it's such a big school," but when I came here, the people I met with and the attention I received made it feel small to me. It felt right here. I felt comfortable from the start. I decided on chemical because I love chemistry. I know that is a fairly typical answer, but I honestly really like math and chemistry and this major combines the two. Q. You’ve also taken on a minor in energy systems on a nuclear track? What inspired that? A: I have a family member who decommissioned old power plants. I always found that interesting. When I was taking NUC 201 we took a trip to Nine Mile Point and I had a realization that it was where I want to be. I'm going to continue my education at Texas A&M, while I'll earn a master’s and Ph.D. in nuclear energy. Eventually I plan to get a job in a nuclear power plant working on the nuclear instrumentation. It has also led me to assist in Professor Talvarides' lab where I’m applying skills I learned while interning at Oak Ridge National Lab during the summer following junior year. He’s working on collecting the radioactive off-gassing that occurs during nuclear waste recycling, so I've helped collect data for tritiated water adsorption. Q: What’s it like to be a student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science? A: You have so many students, staff, and faculty to draw inspiration from. You have professors like Melissa Green who are willing to work with you and encourage your curiosity even if your major isn’t exactly in line with their work. Senior chem labs have been very fun. Professor Cadwell gives us a simulated problem that a company would want scientists to address, such as the reflux ratio to find 85-weight percent ethanol in a waste stream. We run a bunch of different experiments to accomplish this. It is really hands on and I believe it’s preparing us well for real-world careers. It’s challenging, but if you know how to manage your time right it works. It’s important to have an outlet outside of engineering to recharge and refocus. I’m into CrossFit, so I spend my free time in the gym and at competitions. I also have a lot of friends here that are in the School of Visual and Performing Arts. It’s good to have people on campus who focus on things other than engineering. I’m also a little obsessed with Batman. Our apartment is all Dark Knight posters. Q: You’ve been a part of many things that are outside of your major. What inspired you to explore these other areas? A: Mostly, I’ve sought out certain things because I found them interesting, but my personal experiences have given special meaning to some. I was originally drawn to Professor Green's work, because of the work she was doing with biological fluid mechanics, particularly fish swimming. However, when I sat down with her and actually started hashing things out I became more intrigued with the pulsed pumping of blood flow for people with heart disease. My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor, so the thought of doing something that could help someone else (although not the same illness as my mom) is something that is important to me. Q: As a senior, your time here is close to coming to an end. What do you take away from your time at SU? A: I've gotten great internship opportunities and made lifelong friends and will stay in contact with my professors, especially Professor Talvarides. It's a great program. I love the professors that I've had here and I've learned a lot. I've been so comfortable here for the past four years. I’ve loved it here. The fact that it’s coming to an end is sad. It's weird to think that I won't be back next year, but I’m excited for what’s next and feel that my experiences at SU have prepared me well.