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Grand Challenges Scholar, Spring 2024

Connor Williamson

Connor Williamson chose to study chemical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, because he wanted to master a challenging field with a vast range of career options. 

“Engineering is a surprisingly collaborative field,” Williamson says. “I find it very fun to work with others to solve engineering problems and find solutions that make systems and products better.”

Williamson knew he was on the right track studying chemical engineering when he completed CHE 211 Introduction to Chemical Processing at the top of the class of about 150 students. This achievement encouraged him to continue studying hard through the remainder of his education.

During his time at ASU, he served as a Fulton Ambassador and an undergraduate teaching assistant. He also received the Samuel E. Craig Memorial Scholarship and Moeur Award

Williamson interned at Holland and Hart LLP, where he explored the legal side of patent applications for leading technology corporations, and at Intel, where he learned about the semiconductor manufacturing process.

“Studying engineering has been incredible for my personal development,” he says. “It grew my confidence tremendously over the last four years, and it made me much stronger as a person to know that I can tackle hard topics that many people find confusing.”

He completed an Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, project with a team that developed an efficient way to degrade invasive plant species into biochar, which could then be used to filter water or supply clean fuel. 

“I learned that sustainability is not just large-scale alterations in global behaviors, but can exist as smaller-scale changes that seek to improve the lives of local communities,” Williamson says. “I am capable of changing the world around me, even if those changes only impact a relatively small group of people.”

Williamson extends his gratitude to Kailong Jin, a Fulton Schools assistant professor of chemical engineering, who mentored him as he researched sustainable polymer synthesis.

Jin’s been very encouraging in many of the difficult aspects of these tasks,” Williamson says. “He also agreed to oversee my graduate research which I’m very grateful for.”

Williamson is graduating as a Grand Challenges Scholar from the Fulton Schools Grand Challenges Scholars Program. He will continue his education at ASU as he wraps up his Accelerated Master’s degree in chemical engineering while continuing to work at Intel.

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