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Rugby player honored for engineering work

Emily Szabo '08 maintains a cumulative GPA of 3.75 in a demanding double major.

When Emily Szabo ’08 tells people that she plays on Lehigh’s club rugby team, the slender student often hears exclamations of surprise.

“But even little girls can tackle the big girls,” she says with a laugh.

Szabo plays the fly-half position, calling plays for her team and wrestling women on the opposing team. “I’m in charge of the whole offense,” she says.

Off the field, Szabo tackles other oversized tasks with poise. As a double major in chemical engineering and Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program (IBE), Szabo maintains a cumulative GPA of 3.75. She presides over Lehigh’s student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), serves as secretary for the Society of Women Engineers, and is a Rossin Junior Fellow.

“I like to keep a full plate,” she says.

Szabo’s dedication was recognized recently by the Donald F. Mildred Topp Othmer National Scholarship Award, which grants $1,000 each to 10 students selected from approximately 150 AIChE student chapters throughout the country.

Mayuresh Kothare, the R.L. McCann associate professor of chemical engineering, nominated Szabo for the 2007-2008 scholarship.

“The award criteria were high accomplishment in academics and active participation in AIChE,” says Kothare, who is faculty adviser for Lehigh’s student chapter of the AIChE. “Emily met both requirements.”

As president of AIChE, “she has been very efficient in handling the chapter, and she organizes events in an almost seamless fashion,” says Kothare. Officers often sacrifice study time to organize AIChE meetings, but Szabo “didn’t throw any of her academics for chapter activities,” he says.

On Sept. 17, a day before the campus-wide Career Fair, Szabo orchestrated an AIChE career fair for graduating students. At the event, representatives from six companies described career paths to 45 chemical engineering students.

As an IBE student, Szabo and her student team are designing an automatic sauce stirrer for their capstone project. The students originally sought to convert a magnetic stirrer, often used in chemical laboratories, into a cooking tool, but are now exploring other ways to mix sauces.

On Sept. 5, Szabo’s team traveled to Atlantic City, N.J., to attend the Northeast Pizza Show and to meet chefs who may use their product. Once the team develops a prototype, they will create a marketing plan to prepare their product for commercial use.

Szabo will graduate with a chemical engineering degree in 2008 and will complete her IBE major the following year as a Presidential scholar. Afterwards, she hopes to work for a pharmaceutical company, similar to Merck & Co. Inc., where she interned.

By producing medicines, “I like to know I’m making something that will help people,” she says.

In 2006, Merck selected Szabo as one of only two Merck Engineering and Technology Fellows from Lehigh. She has since interned twice at the pharmaceutical company and was encouraged to apply again, but she will be working elsewhere next summer.

“I loved the [internship], but I want to experience a different type of work and company culture,” she says.

Szabo will be recognized at the 2007 Annual Student Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Nov. 12.

AIChE, the world’s leading organization of chemical engineers, has over 40,000 members from 93 countries.

--Becky Straw

Posted on Friday, October 05, 2007

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