Q & A with Lilly Balderson
With meticulous precision, a chemist’s hands channel energies of creation with the very building blocks of life.
When did you know you wanted to study chemistry?
Before college, I had never been in a chemistry lab. My first semester I fell in love with chemistry in action through experimentation. With meticulous precision, a chemist’s hands channel energies of creation with the very building blocks of life. Chemistry is also the only study which mixes perfectly the power of information about our nature and a constant effort of science to explain those facts.
What was one of your favorite classes in your major?
My favorite chemistry class was my independent study. Independent studies are the perfect opportunity for any student with or without research experience to integrate their knowledge and skills in chemistry to further real-world technology. In my independent study, I got to conduct chemistry-related research under mechanical and nuclear engineering professor Dr. Hong Zhao. I helped develop a self-polymerizing 3D-printing ink to fabricate magnetocaloric devices with controlled microchannels and magnetic anisotropy for utilization in refrigerators, heat exchangers, etc. By the end of the semester, not only had I developed my chemistry skills, I had learned how to efficiently code and program for 3D-printing. My dedication to the project resulted in me being named inventor on a VCU patent for the magnetocaloric technology.
You've done a lot of research as an undergrad. Can you tell us about it?
VCU has a grand, diverse scene when it comes to research and actively pushes students of all education levels and fields to participate. Every semester, there are undergraduate research symposiums where students come together to present their research with their very own posters. The excitement and exhilaration I see in my peers as they present their work fills me happiness and fulfillment that I have chosen a path in research chemistry.
Did you complete any chemistry internships?
I had the opportunity to complete an internship at NASA and it was one of the best and most life-changing experiences I have ever had. I worked on a project that was developing contamination resistant aerospace coatings. My dedication resulted in my name being listed on a NASA patent for the new technology. I was also able to present my NASA research at the world Annual Adhesion Society Conference, where I was the youngest and only woman in my section. Most importantly, the NASA experience was the ground-breaking moment where I accepted my passion for chemistry.