From Rutgers Graduate Student in CCB to Alumna in Industry

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"The new building will have a significant impact on the chemistry department by enabling the research at Rutgers to match it's prestigeous rankings within the scientific community. The new facilities will also positively influence educational growth, helping to attract top tier candidates - faculty and students alike - to play a role in the current and future success of Rutgers' Chemistry Department." -- Michelle Ouimet, Rutgers Ph.D.

If Organic Chemistry Ph.D. Michelle Ouimet pursues her polymer research with the enthusiasm and energy of a cheerleader, there’s a good reason: before coming to Rutgers, she could be found on the sidelines as an undergrad at Clemson University.

Ouimet brought that energy to the table as the President of the Chemistry Graduate Student Association (GSA).

Ouimet reinvigorated GSA with new programs including an industrial lecture series with Rutgers’ Chemistry alumni: “We tried new and different programs to get a better level of interaction with the graduate student community.  A lot of graduate students don’t realize one of the real advantages [to being at Rutgers] is the access to industry we are provided through our alumni as well as research collaborations.”

As a graduate student, Ouimet got a great taste for those connections – literally. She had an internship with Kraft Foods New Technology Group in Whippany, N.J., which is an integral part of the company’s $15 billion gum and candy product portfolio with brands such as Trident, Halls, Stride, Dentyne, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids. Ouimet interned with a group that drives product innovation with developments such as long lasting taste and flavor changing technologies.

“I was very interested in learning more about rheology, or the flow of matter, and how I could implement that knowledge within my research at Rutgers,” said Ouimet, who worked on refining a gum with longer lasting taste. “The Kraft experience was great because it opened me up to the possibilities of working in the food industry. I also picked up some new experiences and skills that I could bring back to my team.” Ouimet is now an Organic, Materials, and Polymer Research Chemist working on polyurethanes research and developing novel chemical adhesion methods at BASF.

Ouimet worked with Kathryn Uhrich, Professor of Chemsitry at Rutgers, which focuses on the synthesis and characterization of biocompatible polymers for medical and dental applications such as drug delivery and tissue engineering.

“My research focuses on synthesizing, characterizing, and formulating bioactive-containing polymers for cosmetic, personal care, wound-care, and food-based applications,” said Ouimet. “I came to Rutgers because I wanted to learn from a world renowned polymer scientist like Kathryn and the experience has just been outstanding in every possible way. My goal has always been to continue learning and to consider new approaches and possibilities and our group really fosters that type of environment.”