Department of Chemistry

Andrea G. Hsu Schouten, Ph.D., ’09 North Group

  • Senior member of the technical staff, Propulsion Science Department, Space Materials Lab, Aerospace Corporation

Why did you choose Texas A&M Chemistry?

After I graduated with my B.S. in Chemical Engineering, I went to work for a chemical company, Celanese Chemicals, for about one year. I was glad to be done with school, in fact, graduate school was the last thing on my mind. I worked as a process engineer at a PVOH plant in Houston, TX. I enjoyed my work. I learned that the engineer’s main job was to keep it running smoothly 24/7. Why? Because every day that the plant is not producing product, the company is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit! So I learned a wealth of information about pumps, plumbing, batch reactors, distillation columns, vacuum chambers, instrumentation, all the hardware that keeps the plant going. However, this plant (and most chemical plants in general) are old, built in the 50s and 60s, and the technology is old. There are little opportunities to implement new processes because those require downtime. Not only that, I felt that as an engineer, I knew all about how the plant functioned, but not a lot about the actual chemistry that was going on. Celanese had a laboratory research group that ran pilot plants, producing small quantities of product, whose main goal was to research new ways of producing different products. I would visit their labs often, talking with the scientists about what they did. It was fascinating! They were working on new catalysts, new technologies, and new processes. And guess what, they were all chemists. All Ph.D. chemists. So I was told over and over that if this was what interested me, I should go back to graduate school to get my Ph.D. in science. So I did. I chose Texas A&M’s Chemistry program, mainly because of its growing chemistry faculty, good reputation in the sciences, and friendly student atmosphere. I wasn’t quite sure what area of chemistry I would go into yet, but I was sure I would find something I would enjoy working on.

How has your Texas A&M education influenced your personal growth and professional success?

Texas A&M is truly unique in that the aggie network is one that you will have forever. The friends that you meet at Texas A&M will be your friends for life; in fact one of my graduate school co-workers was my maid of honor. I find that Texas A&M students are close-knit, friendly, and warm. I like to think of Texas A&M and College Station as a big-small-town. There are a lot of students but it feels cozy. Everyone is willing to help. And it’s true that Aggies hire Aggies!