Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2023
The applications of chemical engineering are nearly endless, including medicine, law, biotechnology, electronics, aerospace, business and more. It is this freedom that drove a creative mind like Wyatt Blackson to pursue a degree in the discipline.
“I find it interesting how chemical engineering principles are so universal and can be applied to a diverse set of research problems,” Blackson says. “This is evident by simply looking at the types of work being conducted by chemical engineering faculty, from biotechnology or medicine to polymers, materials, energy or catalysis.”
He chose ASU because of its reputation as an R1 research university and took full advantage of the opportunities provided at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
Blackson conducted research in chemical engineering Associate Professor Brent Nannenga’s lab as part of the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, or FURI. One project allowed Blackson to directly contribute to the process of determining the protein structure of an entirely novel dehydratase domain, an enzyme that catalyzes the removal of oxygen and hydrogen from metabolites.
“Conducting research as an undergraduate was critical to my development as an engineer,” he says. “I was able to work on a novel problem I was passionate about, starting from experiment conception, then moving to design, as well as through completion and analysis. Seeing results as a direct product of my work, both successes and failures, taught me the beauty of engineering design.”
In his first two years at ASU, Blackson participated in an Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, program with 33 Buckets, a clean water access nonprofit organization. The teams worked to find methods to improve water disinfection solutions to different communities that would fit the daily lifestyle of the population.
Outside of his applied experience in research, Blackson developed his leadership skills as an engineering peer mentor for commuting students and the vice president of external affairs for the ASU chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Blackson will continue to develop his research skills as a chemical engineering PhD student at Stanford University.
Long-term, he hopes to contribute to scientific development for improving human health through therapeutics to target orphan diseases, cancer or even lactose intolerance.