“make as many connections as you possibly can"
Can I have a career focused on something I am personally passionate about? This is a common question amongst many students who are avidly navigating the major declaration waters, trying to decide on a lifelong profession. 
Nazrin Hasanova ‘21 began her Lehigh undergraduate academics in 2017 as one of those students, unsure which path to take. “I knew that I wanted to be an engineer but had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do with that. At that point, I was an avid skincare consumer, always on the search for products with good ingredients and functionality. It suddenly occurred to me that I can have a career related to something I have personal interest in - so I switched to Chemical Engineering” says Hasanova. She quickly filled her schedule with electives on production and regulation of chemicals, such as Biotechnology and Regulatory Affairs. “From that point on, I was sure that I wanted to tie my career to research and development of personal care products.”
Hasanova found herself graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree at the sunset of a pandemic and having a strong fruition that she still needed to continue pursuing her passion of skincare products, despite the challenges being thrown her way. “After graduation, I returned home to Azerbaijan to work for some time. I was not able to find any work to my liking at home, so I returned to Lehigh for a PhD program in Chemical Engineering under the supervision of James Gilchrist, Ruth H. and Sam Madrid Professor Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Kelly Schultz Associate Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, to work on their NSF-sponsored project. I envision myself utilizing these skills from leading my own research as I move on to an industry position in R&D of personal care products.” In the Spring semester, she also served as a graduate teaching assistant for the CHE098 Coffee and Cosmetics course, where Professor Gilchrist organized an industry presentation for the class, led by alumni Elizabeth Ocker ’19.
Ocker graduated from the Lehigh IDEAS Program, dual majoring in Chemical Engineering and Theatre. Outside her academics, she was involved in the drama society, Mustard and Cheese, as well as being a campus tour guide and a Gryphon. Her field interests, and personal skincare/cosmetic interests, led Ocker to pursue two summer industry internships, both at kdc/one Port Jervis in New York, which gave her the opportunities to work with research and innovations, R&D, and process engineering teams. “I quickly realized how much more I loved process engineering and the ability to work with products from initial development to end production, so when I graduated, I sought a job in process engineering at kdc/one Port Jervis and have been there ever since” says Ocker. 
“When Professor Gilchrist reached out to me with this alumni opportunity, I immediately said yes. I was excited to share my knowledge and experiences so students realize they can have a meaningful career focused on work they are truly passionate about doing on a daily basis.” 
Students received an overview of the processing and testing involved with skincare or cosmetic formulas which become an actual product on consumer store shelves. "I also spoke about how different chemical engineering principles such as fluid dynamics, heat transfer, rheology, and polymer studies, pertain to my job and the manufacturing of cosmetics.” Ocker wrapped up her presentation with a brief Q&A session for further interaction with the class.
As the class teaching assistant, Hasanova was granted the opportunity to attend Ocker’s presentation. “It was exciting to hear about her career work. The presentation gave me a glimpse into how her undergraduate experience at Lehigh helped her build a solid foundation as a chemical engineer, all the while confirming my passion, and gaining an industry connection at the same time.”
Before Ocker’s class departure, she gave students her biggest piece of advice - “make as many connections as you possibly can with faculty, industry, alumni, and classmates. Let everyone know your interests. You never know how important those connections will be in the future.” She concluded “I am a prime example that without those connections, I would not be in the profession I am today. Follow your passion!”

Ruth H. and Sam Madrid Professor
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Lehigh PhD Student
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Process Engineer

Associate Professor
Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering