chemical engineering

Alberto Jorge Vazquez Anderson and his wife were on a waitlist of more than 800 people before moving into the Colorado University Apartments. Last week, the Graduate Student Assembly passed a resolution requesting new opportunities for graduate housing. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Alberto Jorge Vazquez Anderson, a graduate student from Mexico, came to the University in 2011 to study chemical engineering and quickly realized Austin is an expensive place to live. 

Vazquez and his wife put their names on a waitlist more than 800 people long to get into more affordable graduate student housing offered by University Apartments. Some people on the list have been waiting for housing since 2008. 

University Apartments — Brackenridge, Gateway and Colorado — offer 715 units to all students with at least 30 credit hours. 93.2 percent of its occupants are graduate and professional students, and 74.9 percent of its occupants are international graduate students with spouses and children, according to Sheril Smith, associate director for University Apartments. 

The average wait time for students who apply to the University Apartments is six months to one year or longer, according to Smith.

“I think there is a need for housing in Austin in general,” Smith said. “It’s a very challenging market.”

Because the amount of students on the waitlist is more than the amount of apartments available, the Graduate Student Assembly passed a resolution last Wednesday requesting the Division of Students Affairs investigate opportunities to expand affordable graduate student housing.

According to Smith, although the apartments are in ongoing renovations, there are no plans for any new construction. John Dalton, assistant dean of graduate studies, said he was also unaware of any plans for new housing projects.

“We are always talking and thinking about housing that is affordable and dedicated to graduate students, but I am unaware of any plans to build new facilities,” Dalton said.

GSA President David Villarreal said the Dell Medical School, which will accept its first class in 2016, would bring a greater need for graduate student housing to the already competitive housing market in Austin.

Graduate students are eligible to live in on-campus housing, but Villarreal said the length of time these students stay on campus makes it difficult to live in contracted dormitory housing. The University Apartments allow students to occupy an apartment unit for up to seven years without reapplying each spring.

“Dormitory housing, which is convenient for undergraduates, is more challenging for graduate parents, their families and international students,” Villarreal said. “University Apartments is really the last affordable housing option for [graduate] students.”

Former GSA President Columbia Mishra, who authored the legislation in support of affordable graduate student housing, said there was a need for more affordable housing closer to campus.

“We would also like the areas closer to campus, such as the Red River and North Campus area, to be further explored for affordable graduate student housing opportunities since they are closer to campus or well connected to campus,” Mishra said. Mishra said graduate students tend to live in areas such as Far West and Riverside because of their affordability, but these locations tend to make it difficult to get to campus and are not as safe.

“Austin is a growing city with housing rents on the rise, and these rents will only continue to become more expensive,” Mishra said. “It makes UT-Austin less competitive when it comes to attracting the best and the brightest graduate students.”

Unlike most graduate students who are unable to be placed in the popular complexes, Vazquez and his wife found out they would be living in the Colorado Apartment within six months of applying.

According to Vazquez, he has had almost no problems in the 52-year-old Colorado Apartment complex. Vazquez said its location near running trails, bus routes and Lady Bird Lake made it the perfect place for the couple, who will be expecting a child in September.

“When I applied here, I basically knew there was a long waitlist, and I didn’t think I was going to be offered an apartment so soon,” Vazquez said. “It’s the best value and a very good deal.”

Rebekah Scheuerle, a chemical engineering student, was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship last week. She is the second chemical engineering student from UT to be awarded the prestigious financial award. 

This photo caption was changed after its original posting for accuracy. 

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Rebekah Scheuerle, a UT chemical engineering senior, received a full-ride scholarship to Cambridge University from the Gates Foundation last week, making her the third student in the department of chemical engineering to receive the highly competitive award.

Scheuerle served as a two-time president of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and has been a member of Longhorn Band. At UT, she spent her time researching better ways to deliver proteins for treating diseases to key sites in the body.

“I look forward to using the chemical engineering skills I have acquired at UT-Austin to develop novel therapeutics at Cambridge,” Scheuerle said.

Nicholas Peppas, a chemical engineering professor who headed the research Scheuerle participates in with two doctoral candidates and two other undergraduates, said research in this area is especially critical. Scheuerle works on polymers, special nanoscopic plastic materials that deliver small interfering RNA through the digestive system. According to Scheuerle, they protect the RNA through the digestive system and release it when they reach a part of the digestive system with the right acidity. Because this type of RNA can prevent genes from being expressed, proper delivery means it could be used to treat diseases as varied as colitis, Crohn’s disease and some types of cancer.

Peppas said he first selected Scheuerle to participate in his lab research when she approached him after a class in her freshman year because she wanted to use research to help others.

“[I selected her because of] the type of questions she asked in that first meeting, the fact that she said she had plans for the future,” Peppas said. “She said, ‘I want to do something for society, I want to do something that will have an impact.’”

Peppas said of all the students who have been in his laboratory over the years, Scheuerle stood out.

“I’ve been at UT for 10 years. I’ve been in academia for 37,” Peppas said. “I would consider her to be one of the 10 best out of [about] 750 people who have worked in my laboratory.”

William Liechty, a chemical engineering graduate student who has worked with Scheuerle on the same research, agreed.

“From the minute I met her, I realized she is incredibly driven and motivated,” Liechty said.

Liechty, a former Gates scholar himself, said he believed the program would help Scheuerle network with some of the brightest people in the world while also doing important research. 

“Knowing that there are 100 people in the world that I will be going to Cambridge with is a really big realization,” Liechty said. “It’s a really big eye-opener in terms of the world of possibilities.”

Scheuerle will be paired with the head of Cambridge’s chemical engineering department, Nigel Slater, who also served as Liechty’s mentor during his time at Cambridge. They will research biopharmaceutical processing and drug delivery, but have not chosen a specific research area yet.

Liechty said he was glad she received the scholarship, and he would continue to follow her progress.

“When she first came into the lab as a freshman and I was a second-year graduate student, our relationship was kind of mentor-mentee. Now I think of her not just as a mentee but as a friend,” Liechty said. “I really think she’s going to be a star.”

Printed on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 as: Cambridge scholarship awarded

Chemical engineering senior Johnny Sompholphardy seemed surprised that the mint-condition Blackberry phone turned on without fail.

“Why would anyone throw this away?” he said.

The same could not be said for the majority of electronics people donated during UT’s third-annual eWaste Drive on Saturday.

Volunteers from the Student Engineering Council collected electronic devices donated by the Austin community, most in nonworking condition. Goodwill collects the excess televisions, laptops and other items to their electronic processing facilities, where working parts are salvaged and sold in stores. Nonworking items are disposed of within strict environmental standards.

“The main focus of the event is to ensure that electronics are disposed of properly,” said John Koenig, an electrical engineering senior. “A lot of people have no idea how to get rid of this stuff.”

The group has not calculated how many electronics it collected this year, but last year it gathered approximately 500 cars worth of materials.