Hands-On Experiences in Research and Beyond

Derek Bergstedt’s interest in chemical engineering began in fourth grade when a career assessment test suggested they pursue the discipline. Over the years as they learned more about the field, it became their dream job. 

In high school they had positive experiences meeting Illinois Institute of Technology students and faculty during visits to campus. Receiving the Camras Scholarship sealed the deal. 

At Illinois Tech, Derek has participated in a number of hands-on experiences that have provided valuable career skills.

In summer 2022, Derek participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program through the Institute for Food Safety and Health at Illinois Tech. 

They worked with Professor of Chemical Engineering Sohail Murad on a simulation project focused on producing potable water from atmospheric water harvesting technology. 

“The highlight of the REU for me was the fact that each student was assigned a mentor who would help develop their professional skills and supervise their research. The experience helped prepare me for my career in chemical engineering,” says Derek. 

Derek says this was one of their first experiences working on a largely self-driven project, and the process helped them learn new skills that they expect to continue benefiting from in the future.

“There is a field of research for almost every interest that a student may develop along with a skilled mentor that is close to, if not at, the foremost of development within said field here at Illinois Tech,” they say.

Derek says their favorite experience at Illinois Tech so far was through the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program. In fall 2022, Derek and their team developed a project recycling carbon fiber from tennis rackets.

When they presented their results at the semesterly Innovation Day, they impressed the judges, winning the Industry and Technology track.

“I think what really got us the prize was the presentation that we had developed together as a team. That experience has largely shaped my public speaking and presentation capabilities, and will help me develop them further in the future,” they say. “I was able to discover more about how I work in diverse groups of STEM majors.”

Derek plans to pursue a career as a professional engineer with the aim of eventually managing a team of engineers. 

“What inspires me, overall, is the hope for a better world. Not necessarily in the future, but even now. I’ll walk around campus and see a lot of my friends and acquaintances, I’ll stop to chat with them and end up getting blown away by what they’re doing. Whether that’s high-level research, community service through their organizations, or just their work ethic and world outlook,” says Derek. “Being here at Illinois Tech has allowed me to meet so many amazing individuals that give me hope for the future.”

Related Stories