She Received the Best Birthday Present: a Top Job Offer from a Top Company: Meet Danni Chen

Recent graduate Danni Chen, a chemical engineering major, has a top job lined up with DuPont.

On her most recent birthday, Danni Chen got a special present: DuPont, one of the world’s top chemical companies, called to offer her a job. Gleefully, she accepted.

And it was more than a job the company offered her: It was a career -- one filled with the promise of a bright future.

She’ll soon be part of DuPont’s Field Engineering Rotational Program, a coveted six-year rotational program. It’s a great job that will offer her the chance to travel within the company and around the world. And it’s a perfect fit for Danni, a chemical engineering major who loves to travel and experience new things.

“The job will be challenging and exciting because every two years, for six years, I’ll move to a different division and get an overview of DuPont,” says Danni, who graduated from the Albert Dorman Honors College in January 2014.  “I felt really lucky to have gotten such a great job on my birthday.”

In the summer of 2013, Danni did an internship at DuPont’s headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware. She excelled in her work, and at the end of the internship she applied for a full-time job in chemical engineering.  She must have impressed her interviewers, because a few weeks later, on that lucky day, she got the job offer.  And she hadn’t yet graduated from NJIT.

In this interview, Danni talks about her internship at DuPont as well as the other two internships she worked while an NJIT student. She also discusses her studies at NJIT and the research projects she did here, all of which served to prepare her for professional success.

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Can you talk about the research projects you did at NJIT?

During my early years at NJIT, I assisted with two research projects. My first project, during my sophomore year (under the guidance of Professor Shilan Motamedvaziri), helped me gain a more detailed understanding about mixing processes and its importance in chemical industries.

For my second project during junior year (under the guidance of Professor Marino Xanthos and his Ph.D. student Nonjaros Chomcharn), I acquired a more comprehensive understanding of pharmaceutical engineering as well as advantageous exposure to equipment and technologies commonly used in the chemical engineering field.

You also interned at a national lab. How was that?

In the summer of 2012, I attained my first internship at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at U.C. Berkeley.  I performed research on innovations related to the next generation of clean energy.  I also helped scientists in the lab develop a new kind of fuel cell, one capable of generating electricity with zero carbon emissions. The lab’s hope is that, once fully developed, this new technology will be able to replace fossil fuels. The national lab employs some of best and brightest scientists and research professors in the world -- 13 of them have won the Nobel Prize – and I felt fortunate to work beside such ingenious people. 

The lab sits on a 200-acre site in the hills above the University of California Berkeley, and you lived in the International House, a Berkeley dorm. How’d you enjoy that?

I loved it. The lab had a great view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.  And there were so many things to do, like visiting Golden Gate Park, the Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39, Six Flags and eating at the myriad of seafood and ethnic restaurants. But I think I still lost ten pounds walking up and down all the hills around town.”

And then you worked a co-op job at Colgate-Palmolive, right?

Yes. Directly following this summer internship, I worked at a co-op at Colgate-Palmolive. I focused on the process development/manufacturing side of consumer products. I obtained this co-op with the help of NJIT CDS (Career Development Services) and I am really grateful to have been given this opportunity.

What did you learn during your co-op job?

During the co-op, I worked on the second floor of the company where the pilot plant is: a small-scale version of a plant used for the early stages of creating a new product, and this was really a great educational experience. I learned so much about the manufacturing side of industry including prototype testing (experimenting with different formulas), optimization (determining the best version of the product) and scale-up (production from small scale to large scale).

And was it the next summer that you did the DuPont internship?

Yes. In the summer of 2013, I was awarded an SCI (Society of Chemical Industry) internship at one of my dream companies: DuPont, a worldwide leader in science and innovation and one of the top 10 chemical companies in the world, according to the American Chemical Society.

What was your job there?

Working as an Associate Investigator in the Research and Development sector of this corporation, I really enjoyed making a contribution to critical programs at DuPont as well as gaining quite an abundance of practical experience along the way.  Also, I felt ecstatic and quite lucky to have received an offer of employment during the fall of last year, more exactly on my birthday! 

Talk a bit about your background.

I came to the America from China when I was six years old.  My family first settled in NYC, and then moved to the suburbs of Connecticut. I’m very proud to have been the first in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree from an American university. 

What drew you to engineering, a field that is still dominated by men?

I just decided to follow my passions, which early on were math and the sciences. I did well in them and have always liked these subjects.  I always thought that math and science problems were like puzzles. You have clues to the answers, but you must assemble the pieces together to complete the puzzle. Later, in high school, I especially liked chemistry, which spurred my interest in chemical engineering.  

Why did you choose to major chemical engineering?

I chose chemical engineering in the first place because it is such a diverse field. What I especially admire about this major is how we are able to transform something so commonplace and ordinary into something completely amazing for people to use in their daily lives, whether it’s making their lives safer, healthier or just happier. With two internships, a co-op, two research projects, and a good education, I feel ready to take on the world! Also, I am very grateful to NJIT, all my professors and everyone else who helped me along the way to achieve my dreams!

By Robert Florida