In an ever-changing society and professional world, being an engineering student today means training your mind for constant innovation, and considering the role you play in advancing society. With numerous academic, professional and extracurricular experiences under her belt, Materials Science and Engineering Senior Angela Le is someone who encapsulates the spirit and drive necessary for success in our modern day.
As a senior in high school, she first encountered Drexel’s MSE Department in the ASM International Materials Camp Scholars program. She was one of twenty eight students chosen to participate in the week-long summer research-intensive program, and led a team of four in an engineering design competition to construct a composite bridge.
“When I joined MSE in freshman year, I felt ready. Thanks to the summer program, I was able to meet faculty in the department. Everyone was super nice, and I just thought-- this is what I’m looking for in a college,” Le recalls. “I was nervous because I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd, but with MSE, everyone knows your name. When I came in, I felt comfortable enough to talk with faculty about different issues, helping me in terms of learning that I can speak up and ask questions and feel okay with that. It’s gotten me into a lot of weird and exciting experiences that only started because I asked a question to the right person, or was redirected to someone who could help.”
It’s these comfortable conversations that pushed her to try a co-op outside of her research group, and discover a passion for the materials science industry. “My co-ops and the mentors I had along the way have helped me a lot. It’s what led me to the career path I’ve chosen, and a lot of it came from understanding the importance of asking questions.”
Le’s first co-op experience was with Johnson & Johnson as an R&D Analytical Chemist. She specifically worked in new product development and formulations, with tasks like developing and modifying formulations for consumers -- whether in the form of gearing a product toward children with liquid or chewable tablets, and even making decisions regarding flavors of medicine.
“I loved all my co-ops for different reasons, but my first was interesting because I’d never had a job -- I was 19, and the rest of my team was in their 50s-60s. They were so good at what they did, had 20 years' worth of experience working at J&J, and they were always around to help me,” Le explains. “This gave me the courage to do my second co-op with J&J in pharmaceutics. It was more of an independent research experience, and after working for the business side, I found I really enjoyed doing strategy.”
Her last experience was with Merck as a Vaccine Process Development Co-op, which was essentially an independent project with a team based in Ireland. She feels thankful for this experience, as it allowed her to grow in her online communication skills, as well as feel comfortable with global interactions. In an era of COVID-19, Le’s has since found these skills to be particularly beneficial.
On the home front, Le remained engaged with multiple student organizations even through co-op. Though she was involved in a several, she mentions her role in the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) as one of the most formative. Le was the President of NAAAP during her sophomore year of university.
“I really like the idea of student organizations, because they give you the opportunity to try these leadership positions in such a friendly environment. You’re working with a group of people that could be your friends, or at least your peers -- and they’ll always help you and be honest with you,” Le remarks. “It was hard, but I’m glad it’s something I did. It’s important to have the mentality to say you need help and reach out. I’m an Alumni Advisor for the group now.”
Le is also very involved in Material Advantage (MA) as the Vice President, and Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity (PSP) as an Alumni Advisor. Pushing her past her own perceived limits as a student and contributor, the role has made her take hold of her ideas, and know she could go after them and execute them.
Volunteerism efforts with Materials department has been rewarding. Le has participated in the annual Philly Materials Day, where various groups introduce kids and teens to the relatively new field of materials science. The event includes sponsors from the University of Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Science Festival, and The Franklin Institute, and features events such as demos and question/answer sessions for anyone to take part in. It’s given her the ability to guide and inspire the next generation of engineers, like she was at her camp experience in high school.
Whether it’s gearing herself toward global and online communication, or throwing herself wholeheartedly into everything she does-- Le has personified the college's vision of impacting society through focused research, boundary spanning education and continuous innovation in her work and in her own pursuits.