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PhD student wins Best Overall Presentation award at SHPE Engineering Science Symposium

Jaqueline Rojas Robles, a PhD student in mechanical and industrial engineering

Jaqueline Rojas Robles, a PhD student in mechanical and industrial engineering, won the “Best Overall Presentation” award during the recent Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) 2021 Engineering Science Symposium.

Rojas won for her presentation titled “A Novel CeO2/polyurethane Nanocomposite Coating for Multi-functional Applications.” That research, conducted under the direction of Jerimiah Abiade in the Lab for Oxide research and Education (LORE) at UIC, focuses on the development of composite surfaces that both repel water and self-clean.

“The coating has properties that allow it to repel water, which also picks up debris on the surface,” she said. “It can be used for anti-icing or other applications because it has durable properties from the components in the coating. It could be applied to multiple types of surfaces, like the surface on an airplane.”

The annual convention, sponsored by the National Security Agency, is a showcase of the excellent research conducted by SHPE students and faculty members across all engineering fields. Rojas’s research abstract earned her a spot in the top 10 presentations, and her registration fee was covered by conference supporter Dow. She also received assistance from Associate Professor Carmen Lilley and her GREATS program, which was “very helpful,” Rojas said.

GREATS (GRaduate Education for Academically Talented Students) is a UIC program geared toward testing evidence-based practices from learning disability communities of teaching self-advocacy to improve the retention and academic success of PhD students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines who come from underrepresented minority backgrounds.

In addition to receiving support from UIC, Rojas makes it a point to give back to others. As a member of the Society of Women Engineers, she leads the GradSWE efforts to support current UIC graduate students and UIC undergraduate students interested in graduate school. She also has worked with the Women in Engineering Summer Program to encourage female high school students to pursue engineering through hands-on projects and field trips. As a member of LORE, she works with UIC undergraduates and helps them with their projects.

“Dr. Abiade’s lab was the first lab I ever joined. He gave me a chance to pursue different research topics, and that was my first exposure to anything in research,” she said. “Being able to have opportunities to also help other students with their projects is really important to me, because I didn’t know much about engineering research in general until I joined his lab.”