Where can a graduate degree from the University of Illinois take you? In this monthly series, we catch up with one recent Graduate College alum and ask the question: "Where are they now?".
Meredith Sellers graduated in 2011 with a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Now, she works as a Managing Engineer in the Materials and Corrosion Engineering Practice at Exponent Failure Analysis Associates. She specializes in proactive materials characterization and reactive incident investigation, particularly as they relate to oil and gas pipelines, integrated circuit fabrication, and chemical process safety.
What was the transition from graduate school to a professional career like for you?
The transition from graduate student to postdoctoral researcher, and then to technical consultant, was an exciting one. As a technical consultant, I feel challenged by the fast-paced work environment and enriched by the chance to work with experienced consulting staff in a variety of science and engineering disciplines.
What is the most interesting, rewarding, and/or challenging aspect of your job?
The most interesting and rewarding aspect of my job is the opportunity to tease apart fact from fiction to understand the cause(s) of incidents that may have resulted in loss of life, property, or livelihood.
What has been the most valuable transferable skill you gained from graduate school?
The most valuable transferable skill that I gained from graduate school is the ability to quickly learn critical information about an unfamiliar topic – in my line of work, this can involve anything from passenger ferries to knee implants to solder joints.
What experiences made an impact on your career choice?
At the undergraduate and graduate level, my career choice was certainly influenced by my teaching experiences, participation in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and engagement with various campus-level advising bodies such as the UIUC Provost Student Advisory Board (PSAB).
What is one piece of advice you would give to graduate students at Illinois?
Be open-minded to non-traditional career paths in which you can apply the skills you have gained from graduate school. For those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; consulting, policy, and journalism are great examples. An ideal career path should be personally rewarding, not just intellectually challenging!
This interview is part of the monthly Grad Life series called "Where Are They Now?" which chronicles the career paths of recent Univeristy of Illinois Graduate College alumni. Interviews are conducted by Laura Spradlin. Laura contributed to Grad Life throughout its first year. She is an alumna of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois and studied English and French at Illinois Wesleyan University.