Christopher Balzer secures Goldwater Scholarship, plans to make a difference with chemical engineering
Raised by parents who were also engineers, Christopher Balzer grew up understanding how engineering can be a driving force for change. The chemical engineering student has his sights set on bringing about progressive change and, by all indications he’s well on his way.
Balzer, a native of Anthem, Arizona, was recently named a Goldwater Scholar, a prestigious scholarship that recognizes excellence in science, math and engineering.
More than a thousand students applied for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and fewer than a quarter of the applicants received the distinguished award. This year, three of the four Arizona students selected are Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students.
Balzer says he was initially drawn to chemical engineering due to the field’s diversity, which makes him feel as though he can make a bigger impact in the world.
“There are so many different career paths and disciplines within chemical engineering,” says Balzer. “Even within the Goldwater winners this year across the nation, it seems like every chemical engineer is doing something different.”
A participant in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) for three consecutive semesters, Balzer plans on leveraging the award to continue focusing on his research.
Balzer works in Bin Mu’s lab, an Assistant Professor of chemical engineering.
“We study nanoporous materials, specifically metal-organic frameworks,” says Balzer. “The projects I have worked on focus on applying metal-organic frameworks into composite devices for gas separation and sensors. I’m grateful ASU has a program like FURI to expose students to research early on.”
Research was one reason Balzer chose to come to ASU after graduating from Boulder Creek High School in 2014.
“ASU is growing every year and becoming one of the top schools for research,” says Balzer. “With the number of faculty, I knew I could get involved in many different projects early on.”
In fact, Balzer’s early involvement in undergraduate opportunities is what led him to apply for the Goldwater Scholarship.
“I’ve been working with Dr. Mu since the first few weeks of my freshman year,” says Balzer. “He actually encouraged me to apply [for the scholarship] and was incredibly helpful through the whole process.”
With Mu’s mentorship, Balzer came to realize he didn’t have to be a graduate student to significantly contribute to laboratory research.
“He’s always allowed me push myself and has encouraged me when I wanted to take on more independent projects,” adds Balzer.
In addition to his research work, Balzer is involved in the undergraduate community as a student in Barrett, the Honors College, serving as a community assistant there. He is also a member of the ASU chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Balzer has worked in the Palo Verde Tutoring Center and plans on working there again in the coming semester.
Balzer hopes to continue his research in the future working on ground-breaking projects and is planning on attending graduate school. Regardless of where he ends up, Balzer is determined to make a difference in the world.
“My dream for my life is to contribute greatly to society,” says Balzer. “That could mean making a large discovery in engineering or changing people’s lives through volunteering. There’s more than one way to make a difference.”
Pete Zrioka, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering