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Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2018

Philip Sitterle

Not surprisingly for a high-performing student, Philip Sitterle says the most rewarding experiences of his undergraduate education “have also been some of the most challenging.”

All of the homework assignments, class projects, research and related responsibilities made Sitterle at times feel like what he imagines it is to surf in the ocean — “barely hanging on, surrounded by forces stronger than yourself and precariously unbalanced,” as Sitterle describes it.

If he could have been given a superpower to help him get through college, he says his choice would have been time management skills.

“If I was even a little worse at it than I am, school would have been much more difficult.”

Apparently, Sitterle stayed balanced and managed his time well enough to have completed an impressive run toward two undergraduate degrees.

While double-majoring in chemical engineering and French Horn performance — along with taking on the demands of an academic program in ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College — Sitterle earned a New American University Scholarship for outstanding students and went on to make the Dean’s List with a perfect 4.0 grade point average each semester.

He got real-world work experience through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, known as FURI, and contributed to a paper published in Soft Matter, a leading physics, chemistry and biology journal.

He spent a summer in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program designing nanoparticles and quantum dots at the University of Delaware.

Sitterle and several fellow students won an Innovative Design Award for a senior-year capstone chemical engineering project. The team used biomimicry to design a self-sustaining colony on Mars, including resources for food, water, air and other essential human needs.

Those and other accomplishments helped pave the way to his destination after graduation — an engineering position with Samsung Austin Semiconductor in Texas.

Sitterle says his aspiration for the near future is to design engineered materials “that have new and useful functions.” But in the long term, he adds, “I can see myself going to graduate school to pursue a PhD to open the possibility of working in research.”

Sitterle’s advice to undergraduates is to get involved in research as early and as often possible.

He credits much of his success to his research mentor, Professor Lenore Dai, director of the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy in the Fulton Schools.

Beyond valuable training in lab work, Sitterle says Dai made him aware of many career options he had not imagined.

Sitterle also credits his double major for easing the strain of his rigorous studies.

To relieve the tension produced by toiling on tough engineering projects, he would unwind by playing his French horn.

And when Sitterle needed a break from that artistic pursuit, he switched back to engineering work — finding it more endurable after a detour into musical endeavors.

“It’s fun when everything works out that way,” he says.

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