7 July 2014

Two mentors means double the learning

Alicia Calero, foreground, aboard a deepwater oil-and-gas plant in the Gulf of Mexico. Alicia Calero, foreground, aboard a deepwater oil-and-gas plant in the Gulf of Mexico.

Petroleum engineer Alicia Calero, a former participant in the lab's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, talks about two MagLab scientists who played a key role in her training.

By ALICIA CALERO

HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Alicia Calero
Age: 27 
Job: Petroleum engineer 
Employer: Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, New Orleans, Louisiana 
Academic major: Chemical Engineering 
At MagLab: Summer 2008 - Fall 2009
MagLab Mentors: Anant K. Paravastu and Amy McKenna 

During my time at Florida State University, I had the chance to learn from Amy McKenna (a chemist and researcher in the MagLab's Ion Cyclotron Resonance department) and Anant Paravastu (an assistant professor of chemical & biomedical engineering).

If it wasn't for Amy's enthusiasm and knowledge of chemistry, I would not have the same thirst for knowledge. Amy was my teaching assistant for chemistry, and in a course where so many freshmen fear the assignments and material, she was always willing and excited to help. She made learning about science worthwhile and encouraged me to pursue engineering all throughout my time at FSU.

Similarly, Anant Paravastu, my chemical engineering professor, gave me the best opportunity of my college career: to be his laboratory researcher. In working alongside him, I not only got to learn about state-of-the-art techniques, I also got to use them. We performed a multitude of activities at the MagLab, ranging from spectroscopy to working with novel materials and proteins under a magnet.

I specifically remember when he taught me how to use one of the lab's small-bore magnets. Running samples in these small-bore magnets is a time consuming process in that learning how to start is quite difficult, and knowing how to fix a sample's inaccurate reading while the sample is running is something that only experience can bring. At the beginning, this was daunting for me. But Anant had the patience and kindness to reiterate complicated procedures as well as teach me solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance theory. His continued attitude toward sharing knowledge and imparting a skill that few have made learning how to run magnetic samples at the MagLab fun. If it weren't for Anant's tutelage, I would not have been able to retain as much information and skill on this subject to this day.

Like Amy, Anant shares an ardent passion for learning about science. He constantly strives for knowledge and genuinely loves teaching. He makes learning new things exciting and fun. His attitude toward teaching and learning are what continue to feed my desire today to push for more understanding and to never settle for less. If it were not for the hard-work ethic that he taught me, I would not be as skilled in research or delving into complicated topics with my positive and tenacious attitude.

Since having graduated from FSU, I've had opportunities to excel as a skilled engineer. But if it weren't for Amy and Anant's presence in my life, and my time at the MagLab, I would not be the same hardworking or knowledge-hungry engineer that I am today. My mentors taught me to think outside of the box and to never settle for less. They taught me that there is more than meets the eye if you are patient and careful enough to see it.

When I think of them, I think of their approachability, and I will never forget how humble they both are. Regardless of how many accolades they earn, they are still friendly, dedicated and willing to help. This is important, as there are many scientists who are not so encouraging and push others in the opposite direction. When I think of my mentors, I think about passion, dedication, and creativity.

I hope that my mentors remember me as that stubborn student who wouldn't stop asking questions. I want them to remember me as that student who would continuously bring up topics that would lead to more discussion for expanded learning. With this, I hope that they remember that what they say is influential, and that it inspires others to not only be creative, but to also be determined.

To this day, I hope to be the mentor that Amy and Anant were to me. They continue to be the scientists I think about for successful pursuit of knowledge. Their patience and care for the field of science is important because that alone has taught me to share that patience with others. I hope that I will be that inspiration for someone else to pursue science as Anant and Amy have inspired in me.

Last modified on 14 November 2014