Rams Without Borders experience inspires career for Silver Medal winner

As a part of a Rams Without Borders trip to El Salvador, chemical and biological engineering student Katie Jordan learned that combining her education, research, and public policy knowledge could have direct effect on local communities around the world.

Members of the Colorado Engineering Council took notice of her hard work and potential, awarding her the prestigious CEC Silver Medal.

Katie Jordan, 2019 chemical & biological engineering graduate and CEC Silver Medal winner; Photo credit: Jared Knigge
Katie Jordan, 2019 chemical & biological engineering graduate and CEC Silver Medal winner; Photo credit: Jared Knigge

Each year, the Colorado Engineering Council awards the Silver Medal to a student at each of the state’s engineering colleges. The award is based on research skills, academic performance, and service, and is based on nominations from departments within the college and subsequent interviews with candidates.

Jordan credits her participation in student organizations for showing the judges that she is a well-rounded student. Joining organizations like Rams Without Borders helped her learn communications, community involvement, and leadership skills, and gave her real-world experience.

Learning skills through community engagement

Her work with Rams Without Borders, the Colorado State University student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, gave her opportunities to learn and use skills not offered within traditional engineering classes. She accompanied the organization to El Salvador in 2017, and the experience taught her the importance of understanding how local communities are affected by engineering projects.

Getting her undergraduate degree at CSU gave her the best of both worlds – inside and outside the classroom. Her coursework taught her about maximizing cost effectiveness and appropriate engineering requirements, a foundation of knowledge she will use throughout her career. Her opportunities outside of class with Rams Without Borders gave her skills she will use throughout her life, particularly the value of considering the community’s needs when designing engineering solutions.

“I think that working in another country hand-in-hand with community members is really the best way to learn,” she said. “An experience like Engineers Without Borders really helps you understand that we need to work with people and not just for people.”

Balancing her research and community skills

Understanding the effects of projects on local communities will be fundamental for her continued interests in research and public policy. The engineering and policy implications of deep decarbonization energy systems, such as carbon emissions reduction and transportation solutions, require robust engineering and public policy solutions at the heart of her research interests.

Research work in labs throughout her time at CSU sparked her interests and gave her valuable insights on energy systems. Among several research experiences, she worked with Assistant Professor Todd Bandhauer and graduate students at the Energy Institute’s Interdisciplinary Thermal Systems Lab to help build a test facility. The facility was designed as a steam-methane-reforming system, with the goal of simultaneously producing electricity and separating carbon dioxide from natural gas.

Her internship with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels gave her a chance to work as a public policy analyst, expanding her research interests. She researched existing energy and transportation policies across the country, helping to make recommendations to state legislators for policy improvements.

Moving forward into graduate school

She is looking forward to working on her Ph.D., where her energy research will continue to overlap with public policy. Her graduate school experience will feature advisors from chemical and environmental engineering, along with an economist. The program will explore air quality, energy research, and climate change mitigation, with an emphasis on economics, the environment, and human well-being.

The recognition from the Colorado Engineering Council of her hard work and potential will continue to benefit her in graduate school, supporting her research and career goals.

“In grad school when I’m applying for research grants, they really look for what the student has done to prove their capability in academics and research,” she said. “Having this award on my resume could help me get grants to fund my research.”