Angelica Reyes, MASc '18, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Angelica Reyes
“Do something you are passionate about. Passion will keep you going when experiments fail (and trust me they will) or when it gets stressful and frustrating in the lab for other reasons.”

Angelica Reyes is a master’s student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE) department under the supervision of Dr. Curtis P. Berlinguette. She is passionate about driving the global transition to sustainable energy. Her research focuses on carbon dioxide conversion into useful fuels using renewable electricity. She is working in a multi-disciplinary laboratory to further understand these reactor systems with the end goal of technology commercialization. Angelica is excited to communicate her research to a broader audience which afforded her a winning spot in the 2017 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council ‘s (NSERC) nationwide video contest. During her time at UBC, she served as the UBC Women in Engineering (WiE) Graduate Committee Chair, CHBE Graduate Student Council (GSC) CO-Vice President, and UBC Graduate Student Society (GSS) Board Member.

What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

I was very focused on academics in my undergrad, but I shifted that focus to extra-curricular activities when I came to UBC. I made it a goal to connect with others and to be proactive about making a change in the community. I found my sense of belonging through Women in Engineering and the CHBE Graduate Student Council. It was a great feeling to surround myself with such like-minded individuals and to organize events for the benefit of the students (i.e. Path to Leadership for Women in Engineering, UBC APSC 3MT heat, Engineering Research Day). These experiences enabled me to gain valuable non-academic skills and they also served as stress relievers when things were getting tough in the lab.

How do you feel a graduate degree in engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

One of the things I really value from my time in graduate school is the challenge of proposing a solution to a problem that no one has thought of exploring, which means there’s a high probability of encountering setbacks along the way. Engineering graduate school trains you to troubleshoot a lot of problems and enables you to explore specialized areas of engineering. You gain valuable skills not only to pursue further technical engineering work after graduate school, but also skills that are transferrable to other non-technical fields (i.e. business consulting).

What advice would you give a student considering a graduate degree in engineering?

Do something you are passionate about: passion will keep you going when experiments fail (and trust me they will) or when it gets stressful and frustrating in the lab for other reasons.

Make the most of your graduate studies. Most people get so caught up in their research that they don’t really make time to do anything else, but it’s important to find ways to connect and network with others by being involved with student clubs, intramural sports leagues or academic and industrial conferences.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My parents. I grew up in the Philippines and my family moved to Canada when I was 10 years old. We had comfortable lives and my parents were established in their careers, but my parents still decided that we should immigrate to Canada because they did not want their children growing up in the midst of corruption and violence in the Philippines. However, their education and work experience in the Philippines were not credited when we moved to Canada, and they had to start from zero: pursuing an education in Canada, while simultaneously helping our family adjust to the new country. My parents are now established in their careers here in Canada, but their perseverance is my inspiration.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

I hope that my work will contribute to the scientific community and advance the research on electrochemical CO2 conversion. This field of research explores the possibility of generating chemicals and fuels from cheap, abundant solar electricity and harmful CO2 emissions. I think if this technology proves to be efficient and government policies are in place to make it competitive, it could make a big difference in our world.

My other goal is to help shift the gender imbalance in STEM. I can leverage my passion for videography to visually communicate to young females that a career in the STEM field is a great option. I’m going to make a blog someday, or reach out to schools and show videos that feature women in STEM and the cool things that they are doing to change the world. I want to show young females that they can do it too!