A Future in Academia
Even before commencement, Mariah Lynn Arral '18 knew exactly where she was headed: She’ll begin her graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University this fall, embarking on a five-year plan to become a professor.
The chemical engineering major has no doubt about her love for research and teaching. During her four years at UNH, she’s been an undergraduate research assistant, a laboratory manager and a tutor in the UNH Mathematics Center (MaC). She conducted research in professor Jeffrey Halpern’s Surface Enhanced Electrochemical Diagnostic Sensors (SEEDS) Laboratory on detecting NG-Hydroxy-L-arginine or NOHA, which has been found to cause cell death in certain breast cancer cells. This spring, she was honored with a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program award, which is opening up even more opportunities.
“Getting this fellowship has allowed me to choose my own faculty advisor and get a kickstart on my academic career,” Arral explains. “At Carnegie Mellon University, professor Kathryn Whitehead was supportive of my dedication to becoming a professor and laid out a general five-year plan that aligned with what I wanted my graduate career to be like.”
Arral hopes her success at UNH and beyond will help other students. “One of the most important things that I want people to know is that disabilities don’t have to stop you from being at the top,” she says. “I have learning disabilities, as well as autism, and I have found my niche and am on my way to becoming successful in a career I care about. Perseverance through the obstacles one faces in life can lead to great success. This is because success is not determined by your strengths, it’s measured by how you overcome your challenges.”
With her focus now on the future, she is quick to credit her experiences at UNH — and the professors who have served as mentors along the way — with playing an integral part in her decision to pursue a career in academia. Her years at MaC, for example, helped shape her current path, while in UNH’s Society of Women Engineers, associate professor May-Win Thein’s leadership "was both motivational and inspirational," she says.
She also has high praise for Halpern and Adam St. Jean, lecturer of chemical engineering. Halpern's mentorship "has been one of the most fundamental and influential experiences of my academic career,” she says, adding that in his SEEDS Lab, he created an "environment that allows us to achieve academic success while also making lifelong friends.”
In St. Jean’s classes, she adds, she was both challenged and encouraged. "As someone who has a strong desire to be a professor, it was amazing to have someone who was dedicated and passionate about both chemical engineering and teaching," she says, adding, "I hope that when I am a professor I can be a teacher like him.”