Student Star: Emma Pollard

FSU research opportunities propel senior to engineering success

Name: Emma Pollard
Major: Chemical Engineering
Graduation: Spring 2024
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
College: FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

“FSU has so many valuable resources available to its students and has left me with so many cherished memories.”

Fast Facts

  1. Favorite Class: Organic Chemistry II
  2. Islander: Born in Honolulu
  3. Housing: Lived on campus all four years at FSU
  4. Favorite Trip: Zion National Park in Utah
  5. Showgoer: Loves getting student tickets to Opening Nights shows

It was Florida State University’s campus that caught senior Emma Pollard’s attention during her tour. The abundance of undergraduate research opportunities and the University Honors Program proved to be the essential stepping stone that bridged her passion for science to a future career.

“FSU has so many valuable resources available to its students and has left me with so many cherished memories,” Pollard said.

In her first year, she joined the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) where she conducted cellular engineering research under the guidance of Tristan Driscoll, an associate professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Her work focused on mechanotransduction in focal adhesions using MATLAB algorithms and cell image analysis. She presented her findings at the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference and FSU Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2021.

As a junior, she worked with Ralm Ricarte, an assistant professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to synthesize and analyze block copolymer vitrimers, a type of polymer with the goal of developing materials for biocompatible heart valve prostheses.

“Dr. Ricarte challenged me to think critically about my research,” she said. “With his mentorship, I became more confident in not only conducting experiments and making observations, but also drawing meaningful conclusions from them to communicate my findings.”

As an officer for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Pollard organized volunteer events at the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee to teach K-12 students about engineering and science. Additionally, she was a peer tutor at the Academic Center for Excellence, where she worked with fellow students to build science learning skills.

After graduation, Pollard plans to move to North Carolina where she will work for an engineering pharmaceutical company in the Research Triangle area.

“It really feels like my dream job,” she said. “It’s amazing to see that my time and experiences at FSU have directly led me to what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”

Why did you choose to come to FSU?

I visited FSU’s campus for the first time when I was still in high school, and I fell in love straight away. I thought the campus was beautiful. I was smitten with the red bricks, the Spanish moss, and blooming azaleas. As an incoming freshman, I knew I was passionate about science, but I hadn’t completely made up my mind as to what my educational trajectory would look like. I felt that FSU had a wealth of opportunities and resources regardless of where my academic courses took me. The Honors Program and the undergraduate research opportunities resonated deeply with my passion for connecting with motivated, curious students. When I learned I had the opportunity to participate in UROP during my freshman year, my choice to come to FSU was solidified.  

How did you get involved with Undergraduate Research?

My inlet to undergraduate research at FSU was UROP. I learned about the tenets of academic research and joined a cohort of students with similar research interests as me. One of the many advantages of UROP is that it provides you with a lot of resources to get started on finding a mentor for your research, so it doesn’t feel like you’re starting from scratch. There’s a lot of moral support from your cohort members, your student leaders, and the program leaders. After reading about different labs and faculty members’ projects, I met Dr. Driscoll from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, and I joined his team as an undergraduate research assistant in the fall of 2020. That was my first official research role.  

What advice would you give to incoming students looking to get involved in STEM research?

Be curious! If you are interested in research, this is probably a strength for you. UROP is a fantastic program to get you connected with the research network of FSU, but it’s not the only way to do so. Read articles and check out FSU News to learn about the labs and research organizations on campus. Introduce yourself to your professors and find out what type of research they are involved with. If something catches your interest, you can directly contact professors and faculty members to let them know. Reflect on yourself, your story, and what your interests are, and find opportunities that will let those attributes shine. Your work is more meaningful and more impactful when you can put your whole self into it.