For Kathryn (Katie) O’Harra, attending graduate school greatly benefited her, both academically and professionally. After studying polymers as an undergraduate student, she knew she wanted to pursue a career based in academics and research so that she could have the opportunity to be at the forefront of important innovations. Hence, she decided to pursue her Ph.D.
Katie’s research as a grad student enabled her to work independently, explore new information, and execute complex projects. Unlike her experience as an undergrad, she found herself applying skills in dynamic contexts to solve interdisciplinary problems and drive the development of new ideas and products. For example, Katie developed new material classes such as ionic polymers and played a role in the design of self-healing materials. Thus, through grad school, Katie had exciting opportunities to independently discover innovative technologies rather than just apply well-known engineering solutions.
Studying in graduate school yielded clear professional and academic advantages for Katie. She presented her work at numerous national and international events through which she made impressive connections with businesses like 3M, as well as professors at prominent universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Lastly, her research allowed her to stand out in the field, leading to numerous awards and recognitions* that have benefited her visibility in both academia and industry.
Currently, Dr. O’Harra is an Assistant Professor in the UA Honors College and holds an Adjunct Professor appointment in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Most recently, she was awarded a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study gas transport in ionic liquid membranes at different length scales.