Michael Mercier | UAH




Meet Katelyn Miller- an outdoorsy Chemical Engineer major from Dothan, Alabama, who decided to come to UAH in the aftermath of a camping trip. She shares a little about what brought her to Huntsville, her love for adventure and culture, and some insight from her internship with Volatile Analysis at HudsonAlpha last summer.


1.  What made you choose to major in Chemical Engineering?

Many factors went into choosing my major. It started my junior year of high school when I was touring Auburn University, when I was considering going into physical therapy. While touring Auburn, I got to see the chemical engineering department, heard a small amount of what chemical engineering was about, and thought about how I liked chemistry and math. When I got back home, I was taking anatomy and chemistry in my high school classes and fell in love with not only chemistry but the brain too in anatomy. I decided to talk to some doctors that I knew at home who used chemical engineering as their pre-med because now I was interested in being a neurosurgeon. I was also interested in being a pharmacist as well. I decided that for me, chemical engineering would be best in many ways because if I chose not to go to med school or pharmacy school that I had a fall back in a job that I still enjoyed. I have finally come to the conclusion that with chemical engineering, I can still go into the medical field where I have always dreamed of working and in the biotechnology aspect. 


2.  What actually brought you from Dothan to UAH?

My decision to come to UAH is a funny story. When I had toured Auburn University, I had fallen in love with that university and had decided that was the school for me. Fast forward to a few months later, my family and I were camping at Monte Sano for our first time camping and even being in Huntsville, Alabama. My mom called and scheduled a tour at UAH against mine and my dad's wishes. We toured the school, not so happily at first, but there were things peaking my interest throughout the tour. I was liking the size of the classes not being so big, the no football team but a hockey team, the Research Park across the street, and the fact that there are so many resources at this school to help the students succeed. At the end, an advisor had come to our room to talk and answer some of our questions. We were about to leave when he stopped me and my dad and asked if we liked the Appalachian Trail because of the white stripe on our shirts. Not many people understand what the white stripe symbolizes, so when he asked us this we were very excited. He then went on to tell us about a student who took off a semester to thru-hike the AT, which is a complete dream of mine. After talking to him longer, I decided this was the school for me: the school that I could relate to, the town I could relate to with the artsy, smart, mountain vibe. 


3. What lessons have you learned since working for Volatile Analysis?

I have learned a few lessons from my internship, but mainly that I am still in the learning process. When I received my first internship, I had just finished my freshman year which included only the two general chemistry classes. My internship was mostly about organic chemistry. The whole summer was full of learning new skillsets and gaining more knowledge about a subject that I hadn't been exposed to yet. I also had to learn to keep a well-kept, detailed lab notebook along with making an agenda for weekly meetings. The internship I had with Volatile Analysis was a research and development type project. 


4.  What advice would you offer to someone interested in getting a co-op or internship? 

I would tell somebody that is interested in obtaining a co-op or internship to definitely do it, and try to their best ability to obtain one or the other. In either a co-op or an internship, you will achieve real world experience to help you realize if it is really something that you would like to do career-wise. It is definitely worth it to look for a co-op or internship. Another great reason is the simple fact that it will be something to put on your resume to impress future employers and for them to know that you have received hands-on experience in the workplace rather than just in the classroom.


5. How would you say your internship has grown you as a person?

My internship has grown me as a person by allowing me to feel more confident in talking about the work that we did along with the background of the work. Having to do the poster presentation for two years in front of multiple people helped calm my nerves about public speaking. 


6. What is one lesson you had to learn the hard way?

One lesson that I had to learn the hard way is that I can't always be a perfectionist in everything. Some classes are going to be so hard that I don't have to exhaust myself in getting the best grade possible. 


7. What is the best “hidden secret” on the campus of UAH?

UAH has many great "hidden secrets." If I have to pick just one though, then I would probably say Gardenview Café held in Bevill Center. As most students don't realize, Gardenview takes meal swipes and dining dollars. 


This summer, Katelyn is continuing to build on her knowledge and experience with a research position as an REU with CMaT or Cell Manufacturing Technologies in Puerto Rico in Dr. Madeline Torres-Lugo lab. She is creating transparent polymer membranes to act as an in vitro scaffold for cells and using monomers that haven't been used in this combination together yet, so it is a process of seeing if it will work transparently and flexibly.   Check out our Instagram to see what that process looks like!