Making an Impact

George Degen (left) and Chelsea Edwards
Thursday, June 24, 2021

Two chemical engineering PhD students have been honored for the impact they have made on others in the campus and local communities. George Degen received a University Award of Distinction from UC Santa Barbara’s Academic Senate in recognition of his unselfish and dedicated service to the university and the community. Chelsea Edwards received the Fiona and Michael Goodchild Award from the Graduate Division to recognize her activities as a research supervisor and mentor of undergraduate students.

Edwards began mentoring two chemical engineering undergraduates, Vedika Shenoy and Kareem Lakkis, during her first summer at UCSB. “I’ve learned that becoming a better mentor can always be a work in progress,” said Edwards, who is entering her fourth year in the PhD program, “but I dedicated thought and time toward individual mentoring approaches, listened to their needs, encouraged their ideas, and they’ve thrived!”

She says that her mentorship success is best reflected in the publications now emerging from their projects, but the personal reward has also been significant. “I’ve had great mentors myself, and I love paying it forward,” said Edwards. “Seeing the students mature and become more independent has definitely been a favorite aspect of my PhD experience so far.”

Advised by chemical engineering associate professor Matt Helgeson, Edwards studies the evolving structures that form when charged polymers phase separate out of salt water into coacervate droplets. Her previous awards include a four-year National Defense Science and Engineering (NDSEG) Fellowship and first place in the 2020 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Materials Division poster competition.

Degen, a sixth-year chemical engineering PhD student, was honored with a University Award of Distinction after participating in scientific outreach through the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL).

“UCSB is a great place, and I am happy to have helped strengthen the connection between the university and the community,” said Degen, whose research focuses on understanding how marine mussels use coacervates to stick to wet surfaces. “Leading outreach activities at local elementary and middle schools is always a highlight of my week, and I hope to have inspired a few future scientists.”

Degen’s previous awards include the UC President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship, the Chemical Engineering Department’s Schlinger Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Co-advised by Joan-Emma Shea, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and materials assistant professor Angela Pitenis, Degen will defend his dissertation later this month, and start a postdoctoral position at MIT in the fall.

News Type: 

Awards and Accolades