Scientist Spotlight #5: Christian Contreras

In this edition of Scientist Spotlight, we’re happy to feature Christian Contreras, who has been a pen pal with LPS for more than 4 years! He previously worked as a chemical engineer and is now a PhD student in Chemistry at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

When and why did you decide to become a scientist? Why did you decide on your particular field?
CAC_Wildcard_IDI decided to study Chemical Engineering my freshman year of college. I originally wanted to be a lawyer but my science teachers wouldn’t let me start college without letting me know that I should seriously consider studying a physical science. I enjoyed my classes but it wasn’t until I started working in a research laboratory as a sophomore that I realized that I loved scientific research. I originally chose chemical engineering because it sounded cool but I stuck with it because I really enjoyed combining chemistry and engineering to tackle important problems.
What was your favorite part about science when you were in middle school or high school? How did that carry forward to the work you do now?
My favorite part about science was my chemistry teacher in high school. She is so smart and such an excellent teacher it made me want to pursue something related to chemistry. I also want to become a teacher because of her.
Give one or two suggestions for aspiring pre-scientists. What did you wish you knew in middle school or high school that would have helped you stay excited about science, make a decision about college, or learn more about a particular topic that interested you?
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It’s never to late to decide that you want to study science or go to school to become a scientist. I changed my major a lot as a freshman and didn’t officially become a chemical engineering major until the end of my sophomore year. I originally went to graduate school in chemical engineering, then worked for a few years. After which I decided to go back to school to get a PhD in chemistry. Even though I’m a few years older than most of my classmates I really enjoy being back in school and learning more about chemistry.
Why did you decide to participate in LPS? Why did you decide to participate for multiple years?
I heard about the program when I was studying Chemical engineering at Northwestern. It sounded like an incredible opportunity to communicate with young students interested in science. When I was younger I had no idea how people became scientists. I didn’t know a lot about applying to college or graduate school, I hoped that by interacting with students early on that they would be better prepared to become scientists later in life.
What has been the most fun part of having a pre-scientist pen-pal?
The most fun has been learning more about my pen pal as the year passes by. I’m always excited to get my next letter and to write my reply.
You can learn more about Christian’s research at his labs’ websites, here and here.
If you are a current LPS scientist interested in being highlighted on the blog, please fill out this form!

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