A Day in the Life of a Junior Chemical Engineer

Before I get into my actual post, I feel the need to address the elephant in the room: Beer Bike (actually Beer Run due to weather) happened last weekend.

Caption: Part of the Martel family celebrating our victory

Part of the Martel family celebrating our victory

Now, onto my actual post. It occurred to me that some people might be curious to know what a typical day is like at Rice. Thus, I present to you a fairly normal Wednesday in the life of a junior chemical engineer. 

9:40 AM – I leave my apartment and bike to campus for morning classes: transport phenomena and thermodynamics. Today’s topics of discussion include mass transfer in pipes (who would have guessed that there would be so much to learn about stuff flowing through pipes?) and thermodynamic stability of mixtures.

12:00 PM – I head to Martel, my residential college, for lunch. I catch up with fellow Martelians and also try to be somewhat productive during this two-hour break from scheduled activities by checking on my protein simulation runs for research.

2:00 PM – Time for lab lecture! This is when we learn about the more practical things we need to know in the world of chemical engineering, such as technical writing and plant economics.

3:00 PM – I go with the other co-captains of the Rice ChemE Car Team to meet with our faculty advisor and show him what we have built so far. The team is working on building a model car powered and stopped by chemical reactions for a competition in which it has to stop some specified distance.

Our chemical powered car. It is powered by an electrochemical reaction between zinc and oxygen, and stopped by a color changing reaction between sodium thiosulfate and hydrochloric acid.

Our chemical powered car. It is powered by an electrochemical reaction between zinc and oxygen, and stopped by a color changing reaction between sodium thiosulfate and hydrochloric acid.

3:30 PM – I head to Fondren Library to work on a lab report with my two awesome lab partners. This week’s lab report is on different types of fluid flow meters and their accuracy at various fluid flow rates.

Circa 11:00 PM – Several hours and a lengthy dinner break later, we read through the report one last time before deciding that it is good to submit. We applaud ourselves for writing the entire report in less than two days, and I head home to finish up a short problem set before going to bed.

Appreciation Post: Study Spots at Rice

In celebration of finishing the final midterms before spring break, I wanted to use this post to pay a small tribute to some of the most wonderful and essential resources Rice has to offer: the study spots. Rice is decked out from one end to another in benches and tables, in little study booths tucked out of the way, and wide, open arrangements of tables. So, as a tribute to the long week of studying we here at Rice have just gotten through, here are some of my favorite study spots:

Fondren Library (aka Fondy)

Rice’s big, loveable library, Fondren, is my place to go when I have an hour here or there and want to get some quick work done, or if I need a spot for quiet and focused work.

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Pictured: Erika with her favorite two fixtures of indoor study spaces, windows and corners.

First, there are study booths on most of the floors that are tucked in alongside the stacks. I like studying here when I really need to be separated and focused. There are individual study booths lining the walkways as well as the types of booths you see pictured here, which are near windows overlooking the back of the library and the quad beyond. There are also amazing study rooms on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors that can be reserved. Amazing if you want to be in a secluded area, but still be able to collaborate with one or two other people.

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What an ideal study booth looks like.

Another cool spot is the first floor, which has a much more open layout and plenty of options for your quick studying option. I like to study on the first floor if I’m trying to just find a desk to do some little tasks on. And the last of the places I’ll mention is the library’s sixth floor, aka Fondy 6th, the silent floor. As an English/Political Science double major who writes often and has a bad habit of typing loudly, I’ve never been up there. But some people love it for really focused, quiet work.

Residential Colleges (aka your home)

Every one of the residential colleges is set up with different places anyone can go and study. Because I’m a resident of Duncan College, I’m specifically talking about Duncan spots, but every residential college has similar spaces.

First, your college’s commons. This is the place to be if you want to collaborate with your friends on a math or physics problem set, or if you’re looking to do some casual paper-editing while talking to people or waiting for the servery to open. Except for maybe around 6am, you’ll always be able to find people in a college’s commons.

Second, college quads. Since Houston weather is great most days, you’ll want to go outside at least at some point. Duncan quad, pictured below, has a great array of picnic tables in sun and shade. Water Bonus: Duncan has the DuncTank, where you can do your readings for your history or chemistry class while listening to the soothing sound of running water.


Duncan Quad. Outdoor residential college spaces are fantastic!

Every residential college also has its own spots. Some have awesome open spaces on each floor, white boards and couches that are great for hanging out, convenient, and open for multiple groups to study in. Others have individual study rooms. Other residential colleges (like Duncan), have a Sundeck or other rooftop spaces. There are days when it feels really great to study while overlooking the Downtown or Med Center skyline, and I can do that here!

Water Bonus: Brockman Water Tank

Lastly, I want to shed some light on one of my favorite outdoor study spots: next to the water tank in front of Hamman Hall and behind Brockman Hall. Out of the way, this is also an amazing place I like to spend time when I want to be outside. It’s hidden between buildings, so not a lot of people are walking back and forth, and even better – it’s in the shade at all times. You can be outside while not worrying about the glare on your computer screen! What more could you want? Recommended in particular for all my social sciences and (non-theatre) humanities friends who are less likely to have class over here and ever find such an awesome spot.

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Brockman water tank also makes for a great spot for your casual study selfies.

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A view of Erika’s favorite nook on campus: the tables between Brockman and Hamman









Most universities are going to have their share of fun spaces you can visit when you need a place to get some work done, but at Rice I really feel like these spaces are here for me. On Rice’s big and beautiful campus, there are so many nooks, that I probably won’t ever find them all. But that’s also part of the fun of it: you can really make the most of the spaces here and make some of them your own. I recommend finding your escape, finding your focus zone, and finding the place that makes your time at Rice feel a little bit more like home. Happy studying, or more importantly – happy exploring!

Rice Packs in the Opportunities

Out of all of the tools that college has given me, my backpack has proved the most useful.

My backpack and I started our journey together right before college. I had never considered it more than an item, something that was useful but unnecessary. It sat in the corner of my room for 3 months during the summer. At least, I thought it was sitting, but really it was preparing.

Our first true adventure was move-in day. I began to see it as a partner, as I didn’t intend on getting a new backpack for the next few years. It politely waited on my desk through O-week as we prepared for the first day of school. All it held was 3 notebooks, 2 pens, a pencil, and a USB drive — all that my naïve new student brain thought I would need.

The backpack and I at a baseball game in Japan!

It was only two weeks in when I started to appreciate the third pocket. Office hours require text books, textbooks that couldn’t be forced into the laptop and folder pocket. They nestled nicely in the third pocket. And the back pack nestled nicely on my shoulders. I vaguely remembered the “EXTRA PADDING” tag, and although the back pack is heavier with text books, there was no digging in of the straps to my shoulders, as if my pack was taking at least part of the stress off of my shoulders. My back pack became my friend.

About halfway through my first semester, the Back Pack and I got a new member. As I joined two club sports teams, and realized I didn’t want to have the smell of outdoors in the same pocket as my essays, my sports bag became essential. It was essentially a large hole, carrying two pairs of shoes, 3 outfit changes, and a smaller pouch for snacks. This back pack has been across the country, won a national championship, and survived communal washers to help me live out the wannabe-varsity-athlete that lives in side of me.

These two back packs carried me through the first semester of my second year. Laptop, journals, Chap Stick, class. Resume, folder, heels, career fair. Band-Aids, cleats, knee brace, tournament. Nail polish, cookies, speaker, girls’ night in. My experiences at Rice University became more and more diversified. So diverse, that I needed yet another backpack. Because my first two packs had allowed my two travel to track meets and performances across campus, the city, and the country, I had met a lot of people. Most importantly, I met one person, who would go on to gift me my next pack.

The Back Pack Pack

This new back pack was pink with polka dots, a little smaller than the usual back pack, with only one compartment. Perfect for letting me run to Target to pick up lemons for my business project, or for carrying my journal to the engineering quad so I could relax on a sunny day. This backpack was like my best girlfriend, making sure I looked cute no matter what was going on. This addition to my pack family made me all the more efficient. I was able to pre-pack my packs, so I could get up and rush to whatever activity was necessary. They had my back, and I am grateful.

Rice University has allowed me the opportunity to participate in international research, civil rights demonstrations, and inner tube water polo. Whatever I have wanted to try, I have had the opportunity here. There are actually so many opportunities, that prioritizing has become my biggest struggle. I want to do everything, to be everything, but the overwhelming amount of activities has actually made me become more of myself. When you have to choose, you want to make sure that you choose wisely, because free time is a luxury. You will find out what you truly enjoy when you come to Rice, and you will have the backpacks to help you through it.

Rice, Round Two: Opportunities and Decisions, Dates, Deadlines

It’s the start of the second semester of my second year at Rice, and I already have several new things to consider: new classes, new professors, new opportunities. In addition, I have new responsibilities – namely, figuring out my academic plans and declaring my major(s). Thankfully, I took care of the latter task at the end of my freshman year, but there is still more to do. Now that I know what I’m majoring in, I have to start figuring out which classes to take and when, decide between various job and internship opportunities, and try to gain research experience in the fields of psychology that interest me the most. Sophomore year has been a treat to say the least, and I am continuously adapting to the varied aspects of the college experience.

It’s not all tedious tasks and distressing deadlines, though. Sophomore year has given me so many opportunities that I am thankful for. Two highlights include my role as a research assistant in one of Rice’s largest psychology labs, as well as my on-campus job. Continue reading

Twice at Rice: A Freshman’s Second Semester Sentiments

As I boarded Southwest 468 to Houston I realized that, for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a pang of longing to stay an extra day at home: I was both eager and exhilarated to return to college. Rice has already sturdily stationed itself as a mainstay in my life. I have had an abundance of new experiences since arrival, and it being mid-February has not changed the frequency of these occasions. Yesterday, I basked in 79 degree weather whilst my numerous friends at institutions in the Northeast waded through snow and slush to get to class. Today, I fired a crossbow at a slab of cow flesh. Tomorrow, the world. Daily, acquaintances become closer to friends, and friends encroach on the line separating them from family. As second semester continues to unfold, a freshman cannot help but feel that the Rice experience is no longer a foreign, dream-like wonderland, and far more akin to a second home.

When O-Week ended, we were thrust into the hustle and bustle of college life like baby sea turtles taking to an ocean filled with both promise and uncertainty. Thereafter, the learning experience was ceaseless, as we learned from each speech, meeting and PowerPoint slide that Rice threw at us. Coffeehouse was our fueling station, and our steadfast study habits the vehicle with which we steered ourselves into the future. Sure, we veered left here and swerved right there (frankly, I think I skidded onto the curb once or twice), but returning from winter recess was a completely different story.

Despite being an overzealous freshman and only two months older than I was in first semester, I feel like a veteran already. Waking up for 8am classes became routine, and I eased my way into more personal relationships with my professors, even getting lunch or coffee with them on occasion. Seeing high school seniors gazing up at the arched Sallyport on their tours started to give me an upwelling of nostalgia, rather than the pangs of anxiety I used to feel as I reflected on my own college process. To my utmost surprise, I feel more mature as a second semester freshmen than I ever did as a second semester senior.

A highlight of first semester was the Duncan Gala, during which students had dinner with associates and celebrated Duncan College in full regalia.

Naturally, any upperclassman who may read this will scoff. “Pfft!” they’ll exclaim, “how little he knows!” And they’re right—I’m still just a freshman. I’m still just a rinky-dink teenager trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and I will most likely change my major five more times before figuring out what that purpose may be. For now, all that it seems I can do is keep my head above water and continue to relish the youthful stages of my Rice experience.

Six Degrees of Revelation: Six Months into College

Mid-February is always a strange time of the academic year for me. You’re not quite close to the end of the semester, but you’re definitely not close to where you started, either. Maybe I feel this limbo-like state far too keenly; I’m still taken by surprise every time I realize that I am steadily progressing through my first spring semester as a college student.

Without further awe, allow me to highlight some of the most important (or at least, the most interesting) discoveries I have made about life at Rice University:

Continue reading