As they say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!” Senior varsity swimmer A.J. Schick may just have his father to thank not only for raising him to be a sound young man, but also for introducing him to what has become one of the best organizations he can be a part of as a college student—the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Fortunately for Schick, his father, who is a chemical engineer for PepsiCo., is a member of the organization. Receiving mail from the professional chapter each month, the elder Schick had the foresight to share the newsletter with his son, as opposed to simply tossing it to the side. “I didn’t know what it was exactly,” A.J. Schick recalls. “I just assumed it was some sort of chemical engineering club. When I saw a flyer for the student chapter at RPI, I thought I should be a part of it and learn more.”
According to Schick, that decision to “learn more” was one of the best decisions he could have made. While many colleges and universities across the country boast about preparing their students today for their careers of tomorrow, Rensselaer actively implements it with programs such as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, he says.
Starting from the very bottom of the organization, as the freshman representative responsible for recruiting and bringing the views of his class to the officers’ meetings, the highly involved and enthusiastic Schick became president of the organization by his sophomore year.
Having a chemical engineering degree opens up many doors to different career paths and it can be overwhelming. We hope that these informative presentations will help students narrow the field and make it easier to figure out where they want to take their career outside of college.”—A.J. Schick
As president of the Rensselaer chapter, Schick oversees the student-run professional organization designed for chemical engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with the sole purpose of connecting the student body with opportunities outside of school, including industry and research opportunities. AIChE invites representatives from different companies around the area and abroad to hold presentations and provide information for the students about their company and the opportunities they provide. After each presentation, a Q&A session is held that gives the students insight into working in this unique industry.
“Providing these connections to different career paths helps students figure out where they want to take their degree,” Schick said.
AIChE also invites current Rensselaer professors to speak about their research and give students the opportunity to participate if interested. Along with these presentations, AIChE provides tours of industrial plants in the area, which allows students firsthand experience without traveling too far.
“Having a chemical engineering degree opens up many doors to different career paths and it can be overwhelming,” Schick says. “We hope that these informative presentations will help students narrow the field and make it easier to figure out where they want to take their career outside of college.”
AIChE also participates each year in Exploring Engineering Day sponsored by Rensselaer. On this day, area school children from second through sixth grade come for presentations and hands-on activities with members of the many professional societies that Rensselaer has to offer. This year AIChE is holding an “Introduction to Ball-ymer Engineering,” where children will learn about polymers and crosslinking while making their own bouncy balls.
In addition to on-campus and local events, each year the organization sends a group of students to the AIChE Regional Conference, where AIChE student chapters from all over the Northeast come together for a couple of days at a host university. A variety of workshops and networking events are provided by the professional chapters, with the largest component of the conference being the ChemE Car Competition.
Each student chapter of AIChE has an internal club called the ChemE car club. The purpose of the competition is to create a shoebox-sized car that runs and stops through chemical reactions. The goal is to have this car move a certain distance holding a pre-determined amount of weight. After seven years of not having representation, Schick and his peers revived Rensselaer’s ChemE car club in 2013.
“Since the last RPI ChemE car team was long gone and graduated, we didn’t know where to start. It was a lot of fun figuring out what idea we were going to use for our car and how we were going to build it,” he said.
According to Schick, the ChemE car club experience, along with the overall purpose of AIChE, is what college here at Rensselaer is all about, a challenge that takes a lot of time, effort, and teamwork to accomplish. He is confident that when he looks back at his college years 30 years from now, he will be happy to say, “I was able to do so much because of AIChE!”