Furlough Has Earned a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering with a Minor in Materials Science and Engineering

Activities at UVA: Society of Women Engineers, Alpha Omega Epsilon, Madison House-Habitat for Humanity Store, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Omega Chi Epsilon, Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Committee student representative, teaching assistant, intramural sports

Q: Looking back to the time when you applied to UVA Engineering, why did you choose this school?

A: When I was in high school, I attended an event to promote women in engineering where I was able to interact with and spend the night with engineering students. I felt a really strong sense of community and was impressed by all that the students had accomplished, leading me to want to pursue engineering in college. I ultimately chose UVA due to the smaller size and relatively high percentage of women in the School of Engineering. Because of these factors, I felt this was an environment I could succeed in. Having all the resources of a big school but the community of a small one has ended up being my favorite part about being here.

After your time here, how are you different now – how have you grown as a person?

I believe the greatest change I have experienced at UVA is growing confidence in myself and my capabilities. At the start of second year, I remember feeling as if I did not have a place here and thinking that chemical engineering might just be too hard. However, as I started finding my place in my major, I discovered a strong community of people who were all experiencing the same thing. Through growing closer with my classmates, I gained confidence that I belonged here. I also developed a passion for outreach, as I hope to help others overcome similar feelings. These experiences helped me discover what I hope to achieve in the future and how important it is to surround yourself with supportive people.

What was your favorite or most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering, and why? Was there someone who helped you along your journey?

My most memorable educational experience was Bioproduct and Bioprocessing Engineering taught by professor Michael King. This class was a great way to end my biotechnology concentration, as it brought everything I have learned together and really emphasized the significance of the field. This class always reminds me of how lucky I am to be going into an industry that has such a large impact on human health. Professor King and all the guest lecturers are also incredibly accomplished and have given me something to aspire to.

In addition to Professor King, I truly believe that all of my chemical engineering professors helped me throughout my time here. Whether it was always being willing to help or simply knowing my name, they made me feel as if I belonged in this community. Professor George Prpich specifically played a huge role throughout my time here. He has encouraged my involvement in the department and provided a lot of support and advice throughout the job search process.

What’s next for you?

Next year, I will be working at On Demand Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology start-up. The company’s ultimate goal is to make medicine on a small scale, as opposed to mass manufacturing, with hopes of making medicine more accessible across the world. I will be in a rotational role where I can test out what it is like working in different areas of chemical engineering. It was important to me to find a job with a meaningful mission and a diverse work environment, so I am extremely excited to begin my career there!

What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal challenge you’d like to help solve?

I want to make medicine more accessible for everyone. There is a huge disparity in the availability of medicine across the world, which affects expected lifespans and quality of life. It would be so amazing to know that my work is helping to ensure that everyone has access to the same medicine and treatments.

How has UVA Engineering prepared you for your future, for following your dreams or personal mission?

The courses I have taken in chemical engineering, especially in biotechnology, have prepared me with the technical skills needed to enter the pharmaceutical industry. However, I believe that my growing confidence and leadership skills will be most beneficial to my future career, as I have learned how to stand up for my work and how to work hard to support others on my team. Because of these skills, I now have the confidence to pursue my goals and know that I will persevere in the face of challenges.

What advice would you give to engineering students who are just starting out?

Looking back at my time in engineering, I would say that it is really easy to get overwhelmed by the course load and by all the amazing things other people are doing and accomplishing. However, after completing the 128 credits required for chemical engineering, it is easy to see how three credits does not define success here. Everyone is going through their own journey and will focus their time on different things. It is important to do what is best for you, and to remember that it is okay to take care of yourself. It is likely that things that matter in the moment will not matter in a few weeks.

Class of 2022: Susan Furlough

Susan Furlough has earned Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering with a minor in materials science and engineering.