Chemical Engineering Major’s Research Gains National Recognition
As a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, Timilehin Oluwole ’24, ’25 M.S. conducted cutting-edge research that explored sustainable biofuel options. She was among just two dozen students nationwide to receive a prestigious national accolade for her work.
November 14, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Timilehin Oluwole ’24, ’25 M.S. has always wanted to make an impact on the energy industry, and she has an ambitious goal: She wants to help develop a more sustainable and ethically sourced alternative fuel. She’s conducting promising research that aims to do just that by examining seaweed, and her work has already gained national attention.
As a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program 2022 cohort, Oluwole examined seaweeds native to Connecticut. She endeavored to collect different species of seaweed, compare their oil content and yield, and determine which had the highest potential for biofuel production.
Oluwole discovered that a type of seaweed called Monostroma-Grevillei produced the highest yield. Her findings suggested that going past the shoreline would increase the chances of collecting fresh seaweed with a higher oil content.
“As an international transfer student from Nigeria, I never had the opportunity to work and improve on a research idea with the help of a professor and research mentor,” said Oluwole, a chemical engineering major. “Attending the University of New Haven made this possible for me, as my instructors have equipped me with the skills required to work with complex systems. I have great confidence in them.”
‘A great experience for me’
Working under the mentorship of Kristine Horvat, Ph.D., Oluwole completed her SURF research in October 2022, and she has taken several opportunities to present her findings. She has also collaborated on biomedical engineering research, which is currently being reviewed for publication.
“Before this research, I didn’t see myself as a research student, as I’ve always looked forward to working in the industry,” she said. “But through this project, I was not just able to develop my research skills, but I also gained a level of self-discipline and accountability that’s needed to meet set expectations and goals.”
Oluwole recently presented her project as part of the Future Leaders in Chemical Engineering national award symposium for undergraduate researchers. She was among only two dozen students nationwide to be selected for the award, which included honorees from universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. She was recognized as part of an event held at North Carolina State University.
“Getting selected as an awardee meant a lot to me,” she said. “This event is a highly selective national symposium for undergraduate researchers in chemical and biomolecular engineering, and I feel honored to be named as an awardee. I was able to meet with intelligent and exceptional students from across the U.S. This was a great experience for me!”
“The 10-week long Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program is intended to develop the research skills of our students,” added Ronald Harichandran, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE., dean of the University’s Tagliatela College of Engineering and vice provost for research. “When students such as Timilehin can compete head-to-head with others — most of whom are from research- intensive universities — and be selected into a highly selective program such as this, we know that SURF is a winning program!”
‘I hope to make groundbreaking findings’
The symposium also offered Oluwole critical networking opportunities, as well as important information about Ph.D. programs. Dr. Horvat, Oluwole’s mentor, says she is an “exceptional” student.
“I am so proud of Timilehin!” said Dr. Horvat, an assistant professor of chemical engineering. “It is great to see that external organizations have noticed that she has worked on a worthwhile topic, and that they have recognized her for all of her dedication to her school and lab work.
“Timilehin was very enthusiastic about our project, which makes it so much fun for me to work on, too,” she continued. “She is very thorough when completing lab work and meticulous on making sure that she has taken well detailed notes. She also thinks outside of the box. We worked together on this project, and I helped guide her through the topic, but it was truly teamwork to perform the work.”
Oluwole plans to continue her research – as well as her education – as a Charger after graduating with her bachelor’s degree next spring. As part of the University’s 4+1 degree program, she looks forward to expanding her research for her graduate thesis.
“I hope to make groundbreaking findings that will be useful in my future career as a chemical engineer and that will be impactful to the energy industry at large,” she said. “I look forward to presenting my research in new places and to people of high knowledge.”