Jocelyn Mendes ’21
Raised in Leominster, just 20 minutes from campus, Jocelyn Mendes ’21 (CH) says that despite the close proximity, she didn’t discover WPI until she attended a science fair on campus during her sophomore year of high school. That visit made a lasting impression on her.
“I really wanted to be able to do research in college and to learn in a hands-on way,” she says, “so when I was deciding between WPI and a larger school, I chose WPI because I felt like I would have more opportunities.” Her choice paid off immediately—she was able to join a lab in her first year.
Now in her senior year, Mendes reflects that besides the discovery of a deeper love of research, another highlight of her WPI career was her IQP. During seven weeks in Zurich, she and her teammates worked with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “Not only was our project a great learning experience,” she says, “but it was really exciting to be able to work for a technical university in a different country.”
COVID-19 may have thrown a temporary wrench into her education, but it didn’t prevent her from continuing as an undergraduate research assistant in Professor Ronald Grimm’s research group. “We studied the surface chemistry of semiconductor materials that have ideal properties for improving the efficiency of solar cells,” she explains.
Mendes says Grimm’s influence has augmented both her creativity and her problem-solving skills. “His mentorship as a research advisor has taught me how often you fail during research,” she says, “and that failure is okay so long as you have a plan forward!”
“Asking questions and approaching professors can be scary, but it is incredibly worth it in the long term for your learning experience.”
Professor Suzanne Weekes, associate dean of undergraduate studies ad interim, says that faculty members such as Grimm do important research and it is essential that undergraduates are a part of these discovery teams. “It’s a joy to see students like Jocelyn come to WPI and take advantage of all we have to offer,” says Weekes. “She has hit the ground running and I can’t wait to see what more she will do because, without a doubt, the world needs more great scientists!”
During D-Term, Mendes was unable to enter the lab, but instead focused her time on writing a manuscript. “I was lucky enough to spend some time in the lab during the summer,” she explains. “Even in person, it was difficult at times to learn new things and watch over people’s shoulders when we had to be socially distant, but we definitely found creative solutions. I think the biggest lesson from this experience is how important it is to be flexible and open to changing your routines.”
Her strongest advice to incoming students? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try new things—both academically and socially. “Asking questions and approaching professors can be scary, but it is incredibly worth it in the long term for your learning experience. The same goes for making new friends and meeting new people. Putting yourself out there can result in lifelong friendships!”
Aiming to attend graduate school for a PhD in physical chemistry, Mendes says she is truly excited to continue her academic research, and hopes to join a research group that does groundbreaking work that she can feel passionate about. “My ultimate goal,” she says, “is to have a career that I love and one that allows me to learn something new every day.”
Grimmgroup, Phi Sigma Sigma, Student Call Center, Robert E. Connors Award in Physical Chemistry, David Lapré Research Fellowship, STAR Fellowship