A Love for Research with a Dream to Teach

Undergraduate is undaunted by challenges of research

Before collecting his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering this May, David Hanna of Carmel, Ind., is dividing his attention between his last undergraduate tasks and applying to graduate schools.

"I've started applications to about six or seven schools where I plan to continue to pursue chemical engineering," he says. "A PhD is the goal. I'd like to do a post-doc and continue in academia."

Hanna, who has a 3.99 GPA, says he's attracted to research and teaching in equal measure. "I'd get to be with students and inspire kids. Professors also advise how research is done; they lead, manage, and delegate. Their whole goal is to motivate people, and I can see myself fitting into that role."

Since spring 2008, Hanna has been studying hydrogen generation for fuel cells by combustion wave propagation in magnesium/water mixtures under school head, Arvind Varma. "I really like the research that I'm doing," he says. "The other day, walking home, I was thinking about what we were doing, and I had an idea of a modification. It was just a random thought, but it was neat to think that just a simple idea could really change the world. That's what's neat about research. It's just simple problem analysis, and a simple idea could change the world."

Hanna's passion for research isn't diminished by its practicalities and pitfalls. "You can spend a couple of hours in the lab and make a couple of mistakes and have lost that time," he concedes. "Failure is inevitable in research, but you have to learn to convert your frustration into motivation."