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Graduate Student Profile
Priscilla Paul
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Priscilla Paul

Hometown: Queens, NY
Degree Sought: Ph.D.
Department: Chemical Engineering
Faculty Advisors: Dr. Robert J. Linhardt and Dr. Jonathan S. Dordick
Year of graduation: 2013

Background and Accomplishments:

  • RPI Minority Graduate Student Association, Chapter President (Troy, NY 2010-2011)
    • Organized guest faculty talks, student speaker series, and career development workshops
    • Reinstated research symposium for students to present research to industry professionals
  • University of Westminster, Research Intern (London, UK 2006)
    • Collaborated with graduate students and professors to clone the most common pathogenic infection
  • Cornell Nanoscale Facility, Research Intern (Ithaca, NY 2005)
    • Interviewed researchers on the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology research
    • Delivered results in a report, talk at Stanford University, and lab training video

Awards/Fellowships:
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Supplement
3rd Place, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) 2011 National Poster Competition

Why did you choose to enroll at Rensselaer?
I am most interested in the biological side of chemical engineering so the Chemical & Biological Engineering department at Rensselaer seemed like a great fit. I was also very attracted to the Center for Biotechnology & Interdisciplinary Studies which would allow me to collaborate with professors and students from a variety of backgrounds in state-of-the-art facilities.

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?
I have most enjoyed participating in and leading graduate student organizations such as Graduate Christian Fellowship and Minority Graduate Student Association. Being active in these organizations has given me the opportunity to meet many graduate students beyond my lab from a variety of majors and nationalities. The current minority community on campus is small, but I’ve found it to be a close-knit. Whether it has been going out for a dinner and a movie, having a game night, giving advice on each other’s writing or posters, or helping each other pack and move apartments, the support network we’ve built has been essential. RPI has also been great at supporting student efforts to foster the community through sponsoring programs such as the Walter Lincoln Hawkins Research Symposium hosted by the Minority Graduate Student Association. This symposium allowed undergraduate and graduate students to present their research to other students, professors, and industry experts allowing the participants to cultivate their communication and networking skills.

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?
I would tell prospective students that graduate school is definitely challenging, and you might not have control over various factors of your experience, but choosing a place with distinguished faculty, world-class facilities, and a vibrant student community, is a great way to build a foundation for creating a positive experience.

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications?
I am collaborating with an interdisciplinary and multi-university/company team to produce synthetic heparin as an alternative to the current animal-source heparin which is widely used. Heparin is an injectable blood thinner regularly used in blood transfusion bags and dialysis equipment with almost 2 million doses given in the US per day. In 2008, a world-wide contamination crisis occurred resulting in about 100 deaths and over 800 reports of associated serious injuries in the US alone. Some European nations were even forced to continue to use potentially contaminated supplies. A synthetic heparin would allow better control over the manufacturing of the drug and thus better safety. Our goal is to create a synthetic product which is chemically and biologically equivalent to the US Pharmacopeia standard. My aim in the project is to express and purify the enzymes necessary for synthesizing heparin as well as developing methods to quantify enzyme efficiency to optimize manufacturing.

What are your plans following graduation?
I am most interested in building on the biotechnology expertise I am refining in graduate school and developing a business acumen to become a management consultant. As a consultant, I will work with the world’s most influential organizations to solve problems and make a real difference in the private, public, and social sectors.

Professional affiliations:
American Chemical Society
National Society of Black Engineers

What are your hobbies/interests/special talents?
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy dancing salsa in Albany as my graduate student schedule permits. I love travelling and getting outdoors to do water sports in the summer.

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