It's hard, but the department does an excellent job of helping students stand out.
Name: Joey Hurm
Hometown: Cecil County, MD
Degree: B.S. 2018
*We talked with Joey recently to learn about his experiece at UMD and what he's currently up to. Follow this link to a brief video of Joey discussing his next steps....
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Any people or events that compelled you to study engineering?
Well, my dad is a civil engineer, but he didn’t take the typical engineering route – he started his own business, and a small one at that. My brother and I used to help him on various contracts. I grew up watching my dad problem-solve, work math problems, etc. My parents also encouraged lots of inventive or adventurous activities when my siblings and are were growing up. We grew up on a family farm and were given free rein to explore and discover, which also enabled great deal of independence. I always did fairly well in school and my close friends were intelligent and determined in high school as well, which helps. I took several AP courses and my teachers were always pushing STEM subjects, so you could say I was some-what conditioned for engineering from an early age.
So, the University of Maryland was a no-brainer for you then?
Basically, yes. My parents always managed to put plenty of food on the table, but we were, with four kids, let’s say, a very money-conscious family. Going to school in-state was the practical choice and I chose engineering for job security. I don’t ever want to worry about money the way my folks had to. I felt at home on campus, although it was challenging to acclimate at first, and find a group I was comfortable with.
Engineering at Maryland was well known to me, and I’d heard that chemical engineering was a rigorous program, but that the department does an excellent job of helping students stand out.
And what prompted you to declare ChBE as your major?
Ultimately, Dr. Richardson who taught UNIV100. He was super helpful and encouraging of the athletes, especially engineering athletes, and helped us figure out which specialization in engineering was the best fit. At the end of that first semester, I still couldn’t make a decision, so I went to Dr. Richardson’s office. He gave me a very hard look and said, “I’m putting down ‘chemical engineering,’” and that was pretty much it!
It didn’t take me long to connect with several of the professors, too, which helped. Dr. Goldberg, for one – she’s amazing, an unbelievable teacher, who really cares about her students. Her teaching style is definitely an act to be followed. Dr. Choi is hilarious and easy to connect with. And Dr. Sriram puts so much effort into teaching – he’s caring, insightful and so accommodating to his students. I really appreciated all of them!
Were you able to conduct any research during your tenure, either on or off campus?
Yes, actually, I joined a micro-robotics group in mechanical engineering run by Dr. Sochol. It was an amazing project that I didn’t put nearly enough time into. I loved the group and grad students who were helping us. I enjoyed going into the FABLAB and trying to print these tiny structures. There was a lot of trial and error! But it helped me to understand the research process and importance of choosing a topic that interests you. That experience also provided a spring-board into an internship at Medimmune, which is now AstraZeneca. Then that internship segued into a full-time job after graduation.
So you’re working for AstraZeneca now – that’s excellent! What do you do for them?
I started out as a engineering technical services intern in the manufacturing area and then worked my way into the sustainability team. Currently, my focus is the intersection of sustainability and building operations – I’m a specialist in the sustainability and environmental compliance group. AstraZeneca has an aggressive carbon emissions reduction program – we’re currently aimed to be carbon neutral by 2025. We’ve strong composting initiatives and an 85% recycling rate, which we’re quite proud of. I’m also working with automation group in the UK on solutions to energy needs. That’s where my education comes into play – Dr. Raghavan’s courses, for example, really teach you how to think outside of the box, look at a problem from multiple angles, to process, analyze and ultimately problem solve.
Any compelling campus experiences? Any challenges you had to overcome?
I’m thankful to the Clark School for providing financial aid solutions in the form of grants and scholarships. I received a Keystone scholarship, which helped me tremendously.
Challenges? I was lacking in self-confidence when I started college. I felt really disconnected at first. I remember standing in front of the freshmen dorm one time and feeling completely lost, sad, and certain I’d never make any friends. I remember feeling willing to trade difficult course for a good group of friends. Sophomore year my wish came true. It was a hard place to overcome, but I kept pushing forward and eventually made a nice group of friends, one of whom gave me a copy of a book called, “The Power of Now,” which talks about being mindful and recognizing the nature of the mind. It really helped me to better understand myself and other people, and how I perceive my own thoughts. I realized, nothing is permanent – this, the “hard,” will pass, too. My experiences with the faculty members, Peter Kofinas, especially, who taught me to push hard in everything that I do, was the best part of my experience.
You must have some words of advice for current and incoming students.
Networking – fostering relationships with other students and faculty members – is critical. The friends that I made in the major were crucial – someone always knew what to do, or had an idea as to how to problem-solve – and I had so many positive attitudes to bounce off of. Find a mentor. Talk to Drs. Goldberg or Kofinas. Reach out to alumni, too. Also, it’s important to stay active – socialize, go for a run, play a sport, find a hobby, etc. Join the Calisthenics Club at UMD, founded by two ChemEs if you are so inclined. And at the end of it all, if you don’t think ChemE is the best choice for you, don’t be afraid to switch majors. The curriculum will push you and isn’t for the faint of heart, but at commencement, it’s incredibly rewarding!
Any idea what you want to be when you grow up? Doesn’t have to be career-related.
(laughing) Growing up, I remember thinking I wanted to be that crocodile from Peter Pan. Read into that what you will.
I still enjoy farming and gardening, so ideally I want to work with nature, plants and focus on sustainability with myself and my relationships. I know this will allow me to make the best impact on the rest of the world with have a solid base. When I graduated from UMD, I took six months off to travel – to various states and New Zealand, too – and work on organic farms, which was an amazing experience – everyone should do it! It’s important to me to stay connected to the land and leave the smallest possible carbon footprint. That's my contribution.