Pivoting to engineering to help clean up the environment

Sonia Vohra chose UChicago Pritzker Molecular Engineering’s master’s degree to pursue her passion

Sonia Vohra felt destined to have a career in science, but her path wasn’t always clear. While growing up in Las Vegas, she demonstrated her fascination with the natural world and loved exploring the rocks and plants of her mother’s garden. Moreover, her favorite classes in school always involved science and math. 

She ultimately pursued an undergraduate degree in foreign service, albeit with an emphasis on science, technology, and international affairs. A marine biology research experience on a remote island in Panama made her realize that the type of scientific career she craved was more technical and environmentally-oriented. To help make that pivot, she joined the first cohort of the master’s degree program at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME), pursuing the polymer science and engineering track.

In the program, she was captivated by her classes in thermodynamics, polymer science, and molecular modeling. She particularly loved her soft matter characterization lab-based course because it “gave [her] the hands-on preparation for a future career as a research scientist.” She is endlessly grateful to her professor, Dr. Philip Griffin, for his consistent support both throughout the program and since she’s graduated. 

“Each person I met through the program has inspired me to be a better engineer, lifelong learner, and global citizen.” Vohra emphasized. “Not to mention the lifelong friends I made,” she added.

The master’s program proved to be a jumping off point into the career she envisioned. After graduating, she was hired as a materials engineer at Phoenix Tailings, a mining remediation and metals processing company based outside of Boston that seeks to extract valuable materials from mining waste, limiting its harmful impact on the environment. In this role, she worked to optimize materials characterization and develop new chemical processes, drawing heavily on the analytical training she received at PME.

“My experience in this role was everything I was searching for and more,” she stressed. “PME truly helped me build a bridge to countless opportunities in engineering and afforded me the skills to excel in them.”

Ultimately, Vohra credits the Master of Engineering program at PME with allowing her to pivot to engineering and setting her on her dream career path. Vohra said, “My time at PME opened my eyes to so many opportunities and possibilities that I may not have otherwise known about.”

This fall, she is taking the next step in her career and beginning a PhD program in chemical and environmental engineering at Brown University, where she will continue to work on environmental remediation technologies.

—Learn more about the Master of Engineering Degree at UChicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering here.