Hagen Childers explores the versatility of chemical engineering
For Hagen Childers, a fourth-year chemical engineering student, it was the wealth of opportunity that attracted her to her program of study. From doing research in biomedical engineering to interning with Flour-BWXT in nuclear criticality safety, Childers quickly discovered that chemical engineering was at the intersection of many technical disciplines, giving her the flexibility to explore a variety of her interests.
“Chemical engineering is the melting pot of all engineering fields because you learn so much. You have so much technical knowledge that you can apply to any field you want to,” Childers said.
It has always been important for Childers to have varied experiences during her college career, so she could explore all her interests. Her involvement in student organizations is, in many ways, her trademark. She serves as a Learning Community Leader, the Vice President of the Engineering Ambassadors, the former president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the Vice President of LivePositive. She is also involved in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Society of Women in Engineering, the Puzzle Pieces, Habitat for Humanity and the Robe Leadership Institute. Lastly, she was the team leader for the WERC Environmental Design team, earning first place in the national competition in Spring 2022. This varied involvement has allowed Childers to build her confidence, explore career paths and develop her resume.
In addition to her student involvement, Childers engaged in undergraduate research, presenting on the engineering principles of cornea replacement in the 2022 Student Expo.
“My first three years I really enjoyed biomedical engineering. I have done research with Dr. Burdick and loved everything I learned there. When I interned with Flour-BWXT in Piketon, I fell in love with that even more,” Childers said.
Over the summer, Childers worked in nuclear criticality safety. Flour-BWXT is a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy, which exposed Childers to vital information about radiation safety, allowing her the opportunity to author critical documentation, lead statistical analysis and ultimately, characterize a building for deactivation at the plant.
“When they are deactivating a building, they are going to be taking out most of the equipment, so that it can be torn down safely. They try to get rid of as much contamination and make the area as clean and safe as they can. I grew up around [the plant] too, so it means a lot to help my home community,” Childers said.
Community has always been an important part of what makes Childers tick. Her student involvement schedule is busy enough that when she misses meetings, she reaches out to the organization’s leadership to see what she missed and how she can get involved in the next service project. As a leader in several student organizations herself, Childers sees the value of building community within the organization.
“In the Biomedical Engineering Society, we do networking events to build connections in the industry and host professional development opportunities, like resume building and mock interviews. That was super fun in the past, but sometimes we just need to relax, which is why we do game nights and other social events too,” Childers said.
This love for supporting and building community is part of what has connected Childers back to Flour-BWXT. The company helps to decontaminate and decommission the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which directly impacts the environmental health of her home community.
After completing her summer internship with Flour-BWXT, Childers was offered a part-time job to continue her work with the company throughout the school year. Upon graduation, Childers hopes to stay in this industry to maximize all of the experiences she collected while pursuing her chemical engineering degree.