• Matt_s Swirls

Rachel Letteri

There are so many things I value from my experience in PSE, from the stellar training in polymer research, scientific communication, and life, but I most value the lifelong friends I made during my time in the department. It is now nearly 3 years since I defended my thesis, and still a week does not pass when I’m not in contact with someone from PSE to catch up, seek advice, or share our latest polymer research ideas.  During our first year, our class formed a strong bond as we struggled through courses, finding a research group, and taking (and celebrating the end of) CUMEs. Through recruiting and welcoming events, opportunities to teach, department seminars, and many collaborative research efforts, we all made friends with students in other years. As we all joined groups, we doubled our group of close friends (and in my case tripled, since I was in both the Emrick and Hayward labs)! Since then, we have served as each other’s collaborators, confidants, mentors, bridesmaids/groomsmen, roommates, proposal readers, and so much more!  

After completing my PhD, I am incredibly fortunate to have landed a postdoc in Karen Wooley’s lab, my first choice since my third year of grad school, and to have the honor of serving on the Chemical Engineering faculty at UVA, where I’m immensely enjoying teaching and starting my own lab among outstanding colleagues. I never thought of an academic career as an option for me coming into grad school. However, after immensely enjoying TAing the GPC lab, assisting in preparing research proposals, mentoring undergraduate researchers, learning from the best examples of advisors and mentors, and being introduced to the absolutely outstanding broader polymer community, an academic career became a dream. I couldn’t be happier or more thankful for the support and training I gained as a PSE student, which continues to this day in the form of lifelong friends and mentors, trading advice on lab set-up, mentoring, and teaching, reads of proposals, and beyond.