Dylan Snyder(he/him), a senior chemical engineering major from Wilmington, Delaware, reflects on his experience as a member of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), The New Jersey Epsilon Chapter of Tau Beta Pi, Engineers Without Borders and his hopes for the future as a Ph.D. student.
Why did you choose to attend Rowan University? How did Rowan stand out to you in your college search?
Admittedly, Rowan was not my first choice, but it was undoubtedly the best one. What it came down to was of course money, but Rowan’s smaller class size has a considerable advantage over many other universities that rely on the old-fashioned big lecture hall. Even as a high schooler, I knew that you do not learn as well, and thus Rowan was more worth it for the dollar because of the quality. Not to mention much cheaper despite this advantage!
Why did you choose to study chemical engineering? Have you always wanted to pursue a career in this field?
Chemical engineering was appealing because of what it sounded like. There are open-ended problems using chemistry principles. However, now that I have ended my undergraduate curriculum, I understand that chemical engineering is so much more, yet also much different.
You might be surprised to learn that we do not do much lab work, but we are asked to solve problems that address producing chemicals for any sector imaginable. This could be water treatment, medical grade chemicals, petroleum, renewable energy, food, and so much more.
I always wanted to be able to help the world, and while chemical engineering was not all the hardcore chemistry I expected, it was much more and taught me not just the skills but a way of thinking that is invaluable in the world today.
Chemical engineering is a creative profession that also requires critical thinking. You learn so much about how the world works in the scope of energy transformation and mass transfer … it truly enables you to know how to make a big difference both in the world and even at home for chores.
Who was your favorite professor and what class did you take with them?
Oh, I can’t call favorites. Everyone in chemical engineering is a character but especially the professors. Everyone is diverse yet has so much to teach both in the style of thinking and technical expertise. The department is my second family, and I have been able to go to social events, share recipes, and even travel with my professors. It’s hard to see them so much as my superiors as they feel like friends. You should have been there when we voted for one of our professors as the Class Clown of 2023. He framed and hung the superlative up!
Personally, my favorite classes were Chemical Reaction Engineering and Chemical Plant Design. In both of these classes, we design equipment and chemical processes from the ground up, first a reactor in my junior year, then an entire production plant in my senior year. You really learn teamwork and also what I see as the fun side of engineering.
What advice would you give to incoming first-year students and transfers about making the most out of their college experience?
Have fun but take your classes seriously: College is a chance to grow both yourself and your skills. If you take advantage of opportunities, keep an open mind, and practice time management and planning, you will do great!
The harsh reality of college is that each year only gets harder than the last. But each year is potentially more rewarding than the last if you just play your cards right.
Maybe the other thing is to join clubs early – you will inevitably run out of time (not to mention energy) later in college. But if you get involved early, you can make so many friends on top of your classmates.
For example, I met my fiancé through a friend group where I met someone at our Student University Programmers Club. Sometimes you just gotta try something new!
Could you share your favorite moment with a faculty member or a favorite experience in one of your classes?
I was invited to represent my lab (and, by extension Rowan) at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ. Easily the most incredible experience I had in college, as I was able to fly across the country, give a couple of presentations I cared about while hanging out with my friends who also traveled, and win an award. My favorite part was hiking along one of the mountains just south of the city at sunset with my friends.
What are your career aspirations? How do you think Rowan has prepared you for your future endeavors?
It is a good question, and I can tell you it has changed many times over the past four years. For example, I’m currently slated as a Ph.D. student under our department head, Dr. Ken Lau, to work on developing organic batteries. However, that only became a thing back in December, and I had no idea what I wanted to do for a while before. Chemical Engineering opens the door to many fields and careers; it is hard to know which one you want more!
Why is chemical engineering the best suitable major for the goals you would like to accomplish in your future?
Chemical Engineering is unique in that it does not train you to specialize in a specific industry. We are taught certain fundamentals and skills about how energy, momentum, and mass flow, as well as limitations to these systems and their applications. It would take a few days for me to really map out all I’ve learned but I can summarize by saying my program teaches you a toolset, not a job. And toolsets are priceless.
Can you talk about your post-graduation plans? If you have accepted a job, can you talk about the process of applying and then accepting this position?
Right now I have decided to continue to go to Rowan as a Ph.D. student to work on organic batteries under Dr. Ken Lau. I once thought about going straight into industry but changed my mind when I realized that I enjoy the process of research and answering those kinds of open-ended questions. Not only that, but I seem to enjoy giving presentations as well. When Dr. Lau came to Rowan this year as a specialist with batteries, I thought it’d be silly not for me to apply since I always wanted to work on energy storage.
Applying to a Ph.D. or any job is quite intimidating actually. It takes a lot of researching the job or institution you apply for, as well as preparing and preparing your resume and other documents (e.g. getting references, transcript, etc.). I can say that I am not the best at interviewing, and that is only one aspect of applying. I have gotten my foot in the door with internships many times with my resume, but my interview skills are still an area I am working on. My experience applying to Rowan was rather straightforward: I know all of the professors, they know me and my grades, and I explained what I am interested in and some of my ideas for a project, and that was pretty much it. Applying elsewhere though, expect to have to write personal essays, prepare documents, and what you would consider being “applying to a college.”
Do you have advice or tips for trying to stand out within the job search and interview process? What do you believe were your biggest attributes in obtaining this position?
I have some tips, and let me start with a big one. GPA DOES NOT MATTER. Most jobs (besides graduate school) are not interested in how you did but in what you did. Some of the most intelligent people in the world cannot hold down a job because they lack some of the skills or ability to apply the skills they learned. Even graduate school only requires above a 3.0, which is very attainable if you apply yourself and understand the content of your classes. So do not throw all your eggs in that basket. Do not see the rock to miss the mountain.
The actual mountain to climb is developing yourself. Getting the skills needed on the resume is more than just your classes. Go deliver some presentations, network, and take chances. I got my Ph.D. position simply because I acted on something I was not even sure of. Until December, I did not want to attend graduate school. Sometimes you have to try something new. Keep your mind open and your chin up; you’ll always find something worthwhile here at Rowan.
Is there anything else you would like to look back on and reflect on regarding your time at Rowan?
I cannot say I regret much, but maybe one thing bugs me occasionally. I have made many friends at Rowan that I hope to keep in touch with. Some of them have already graduated, and some even dropped out (like any college). Going forward, I want to be better than I was about this in high school, as the people here are great. I might be sick of parking, but I will never be sick of visiting my professors and friends I have made everywhere on campus, even despite the pandemic. We have a strong community here, and being part of it’s a real privilege.
If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
Anything else that you would like to share about your Rowan experience?
I know these questionnaires are about boosting Rowan’s public image and stuff. However, as a fellow (actual) human being and student, let me tell you, it is not like it was all sunshine and rainbows. Yeah, some things were hard to get through (namely, junior year), and sure, I have disagreed with plenty of the decisions made at the university just like anyone does with their colleges and institutions in general.
However, my experience here has been honest and life-changing, and it is thanks to Rowan and the community we have here. We are all in it together at Rowan, and as far as I have seen, we all help each other. I am proud to have gone to this school, and I am proud to be able to work for it in the future.
That much the bloggers did not edit or write. I said that, and I meant it. Thank you, Rowan, for the opportunities I have had here. I am proud to be able to work for it in the future. Despite the flaws and despite the challenges I faced at this institution, I really came out better and grew from it.
[Editor note: thank you, Dylan, and we wish you all the success in the world! We’ll see you in a few years as an Alumni Success feature story, we are sure.]
Like what you see?
Natalie DePersia, senior public relations major