Joanna James, class of 2003, worked with Prof. Van Ness for several years on projects dealing with immiscible blends of plastics. As a Chemistry-Engineering major, she was well-served by doing this upper-division independent research. She developed skills in operating the Scanning Electron Microscope, Differential Scanning Calorimeter, and Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer while helping faculty research physical properties of polymer blends.
Her passion for research that began at W&L led her to pursue her PhD in Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. She went on to secure a job as a Research Engineer in Energy Technology at Air Products. She is currently working on a technology that uses plasma-enhanced gasification to create syngas from municipal solid waste, for the purpose of generating electricity at a large scale. She is using some of the skills honed at W&L to advance the understanding of the physical properties of the glassy, inert slag generated as a by-product of the process. She considers her experience at W&L to be key in exposing her to applied research and is enjoying the career that has unfolded as a result.