PhD in Chemical Engineering – McMaster University

1. Where are you from?

I’m from La Florida, Santiago, Chile. I studied my Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at McMaster University, and previous to that, I did my Bachelor in Industrial Chemistry at Universidad Católica de Chile. I was always captivated by Canada’s fame of being “The Good Neighbor” and one of the best places to live. Since day one, I knew Canada was a beautiful country, and I felt proud and happy to had the opportunity to start the next chapter of my life in this diverse, tolerant, and open-minded country.

2. Why McMaster?

My road to McMaster U. started when I was finishing up my Bachelor Thesis, and I started working at BASF (a German chemical company). My mentor, a leading scientist at BASF US at the time, motivated me to study in Canada and gave me some recommendations for Universities, among them McMaster, his Ph.D. alma mater.

He introduced me to Dr. Robert Pelton, my supervisor, a distinguished Chemist in the paper industry that worked in Chemical Engineering. I got captivated by his research topics, collaboration with Industry and background. Then, I didn’t doubt he was the best fit for what I wanted to study, applied chemistry to Industry and daily life.

3. Did you receive any scholarships to help fund your studies?

I applied to Becas Chile – Equal of opportunities scholarship, one year before I got to Canada. Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to improve my English, prepare my University applications, and to be successful at the Ph.D. path.

3.1. If so, can you tell us more about the scholarship you received?

At the time, this scholarship given by the Chilean government allowed their scholar holders to level their English before and during their applications to the Universities also helped them with the fees to apply for the English course, tuition, living expenses, and medical insurance. However, this scholarship has quite a strict retribution policy, in which the scholar holders have to pay back the award by coming back to live in Chile, and that is the only way to “reattribute” to the government. Some Chilean graduate students are working hard to make this contribution more flexible since research, knowledge transfer and collaboration with the government can be done from anywhere in the world.

4. What did you enjoy most about McMaster?

McMaster University has a lot of attractive characteristics: it has an integrated layout that allows you to meet people from different faculties and disciplines in a beautiful, green and intelligent environment; it has a great student community with many activities, sports and clubs to explore your interests beyond your studies, such as the Latin American club, graduate societies, soccer tournaments, and dancing classes; and it has extensive partnerships with The Industry for fostering collaboration and applied research.

5. How was your experience as an International Student?

In the beginning, I was a little frightened to find myself alone in a new country and learning a new language. Still, fortunately, soon enough, I met beautiful people and made new great friends, I started volunteering in different societies and clubs, and Canada became my second home.

6. To date, what professional opportunities has this degree brought to you?

During my studies, I had the opportunity to work with one of the biggest Nickel producers in the world, and my supervisor supported me to attend several conferences and seminars in the field – Chemistry, Polymer Science, Mining and Chemical Engineering. Also, my extracurricular activities, such as Redicec (Chile – Canada Research Network) and EGS (Engineering Graduate Society), allowed me to network and developed collaboration ties with other researchers and colleagues in disciplines beyond Chemical Engineering, such as science public policy, administration, and social science.

All these opportunities boosted my resume to work in Industries that need a strong technical background but also excellent people skills. Thanks to this journey, I’m finding my passion for business development, mineral exploration, and geochemical analysis.

7. Any advice for future candidates that would like to come to Canada to do their graduate studies?

The most important advice I can give is to reach out to people all the time when you feel good and happy as well as when you feel lonely and sad. I was able to build deep relationships by joining and co-founding several clubs and organizations of my interest (in my case, Latin culture, dancing, and Chilean connections for fostering knowledge and researchers’ mobility). You need to make a new home from scratch, and I’m not talking about material things but a community; people that make you feel you belong to this new, unknown and exciting place that will now be your new home for the years to come.