Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2021
The first time Alexis Hocken worked in a chemical engineering research lab in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, she learned to create nanocomposites from a few simple ingredients.
“I was taking what I had learned in class and applying those concepts directly to the research that I was passionate about,” she says. “Being able to do that so quickly as a freshman reaffirmed my desire to pursue chemical engineering.”
Since then, her research focus under her mentor, Associate Professor Matthew Green, has been related to the biomaterials side of chemical engineering. In particular, Hocken has investigated the properties of what are called photocurable nanocomposites, or mixtures of tiny materials that are solidified by light.
“These composites can be used for a variety of applications ranging from synthetic cartilage replacements to advanced manufacturing,” says Hocken, who has pursued research opportunities with the Green Research Group, Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, ASU/NASA Space Grant and DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering.
Her research leadership, cultivated by Green, has led to a published paper in which she is the lead author — an impressive achievement for an undergraduate student — and numerous oral presentations at national conferences.
“Professor Matthew Green was greatly instrumental in helping me grow as a student and a professional,” she says. “His mentorship and advising have proved to be pivotal in my journey as a researcher and have opened many doors for my next chapter.”
Hocken also invested much of her time outside of the lab, getting involved in outreach with Engineers Without Borders, the All Walks Project, Society of Women Engineers and ASU/NASA Space Grant programs — the latter two to encourage children to get engaged in science.
“Especially for young girls, it is critical that they are exposed to this career path earlier to show them that they are just as capable of succeeding in STEM as anyone else,” she says, adding that she strives to continue to grow the voice and credibility of women in science.
During her junior year, Hocken was selected as a Barry Goldwater Scholar, marking her as a top STEM student in the nation.
“It credited the skills I acquired as a researcher. It was also an incredible opportunity to represent ASU on such a national scale,” says Hocken, who has earned numerous honors and scholarships such as the New American University — President’s Award and Medtronic Scholarship.
After graduation, Hocken will pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.
“I want to work at the interface of academia and industry leading cutting-edge research in biotechnology,” Hocken says. “I want to create greater customization in biomaterials such as synthetic cartilage replacements to improve their integration into the human body.”