Jordan Mader says her decision to pursue a career in science began with the encouragement of teachers at Glens Falls Middle and High Schools.
“My science teachers were role models for me,” she says. “I feel lucky to have been involved in such a phenomenal science program before college.”
It was during AP Chemistry in the 11th grade that Mader was first introduced to fuel cells as a special project; one she says interested her because of the need for alternative energy sources. “We didn’t have much success building fuel cells in that class, but the idea stuck in my head,” she says.
Mader now conducts research on new polymer membranes for use in fuel cells with Brian Benicewicz, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and director of the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis at Rensselaer. She and Benicewicz also wrote a book chapter about polymer membranes for fuel cells that will be included in a book on advances in polymer science.
She says she feels grateful to be part of the advanced Ph.D. program because it enables her to do meaningful research while continuing academic study.
“Fuel cells are emerging as a promising technology to meet the world’s energy needs, which makes my research both exciting and important,” Mader says.
Benicewicz agrees. “We see increasing interest among companies and other researchers in fuel cells. Our students are well aware that this research is needed in order to find ways to develop fuel cells into applied technologies.”
This past March, Mader was a volunteer for Design Your Future Day, an opportunity for female high school juniors to visit Rensselaer and participate in activities to inform and excite them about career opportunities in engineering, science, architecture, and technology. She presented an activity on fuel cells and answered questions from the spirited young women. Mader understood their enthusiasm she had attended the event as a high school junior herself.
“I came to RPI when I was in high school and realized that there are other women doing science, there are other girls my age interested in this. It was great to realize women are a presence in the sciences,” Mader says.