ChemFlow Student Spotlight: John Pederson

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Editor's Note: This story was originally published on the Vertically Integrated Projects website. This version has been tailored for the College of Sciences community.

John Pederson is a member of the ChemFlow Vertically Integrated Projects team and is an undergraduate research assistant with the McDaniel Lab in the School of Chemistry.

Can you tell us about yourself and what you're involved in on campus?

My name is John Pederson, and I am a third year Chemical & Biomedical Engineering Major.

I am from Marietta, Georgia -- not too far from campus. On campus, I participate in several different programs and activities. Notably, I have participated in the VIP program for four semesters, which has opened a lot of doors for me in terms of research experience. Currently, I am an undergraduate research assistant with the McDaniel Lab in the School of Chemistry, and I am also the Marketing Director for the Engineering Honor Society Chapter here on campus. 

You've been involved in the VIP program for a while. Can you tell us what the program is and what team you were on?

My experience with the VIP program is a bit of an interesting story! In high school, I began working in water treatment, doing lab-work and research at the Cobb County Water System in Marietta, GA.  Then, during my first semester on campus here at Georgia Tech, I received an email detailing an opportunity to do research in a group-based setting, and this was my first introduction to the VIP program. I looked through the list of available research projects for the VIP program, and I was immediately drawn to the ChemFlow team. The tubes of the flow reactors reminded me of the flocculation channels that I had seen in my work in water systems, and, after reading more about their work, I decided to apply. I reached out to the instructors of the team, and this is how I started my tenure with VIP.

I have learned through my VIP experience that what you get out of the project hinges on what you put into it. Starting out in this VIP, there were not a ton of guidelines, but by putting in some extra time and effort, we have been able to build something incredibly successful. We currently have two manuscripts that we are seeking to publish later this year. I am helping to write one of these manuscripts currently, and, if it is published, the members of my team and I will be credited with authorship. Additionally, last year, we were able to get one of our abstracts to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, so I was able to attend and do a poster session on our research.

What do you like about being on a VIP team?

I like that we are given a lot of independence in determining the direction of the project. Especially towards the beginning of my involvement with the team, every day had a “what are we doing today” atmosphere about it, so we conducted independent research with an emphasis on exploring the literature and trying new things. I think this is the best way to learn how to conduct research. A large part of the VIP process is learning how to think independently. Additionally, all the undergraduate students and instructors I’ve worked with in VIP have been very bright and enthusiastic. They’ve taught me a lot about the research process! The instructors have been fantastic in their ability to listen to us and provide feedback and advice.

I don’t think that there has been this sort of opportunity before on campus, where a group of undergraduates are given a research problem and work with professors and research scientists to explore that problem in a chemistry lab. It has been such a rewarding experience.

What is the dynamic between VIP students and instructors like?

I have been very fortunate to have been able to work with Professors Pollet and Liotta. Pollets’ door is always open—when I go to her with questions and problems, she is always receptive to me dropping by. Liotta has quite a personality, and he is very knowledgeable and encouraging. Pollet and Liotta make the time and put in the effort to work with students and they help to foster a great working environment for our team.

Have you used the VIP program to qualify for internships, jobs, or co-ops?

The summer after my freshman year at Tech, I interned at the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority. They are a state-run agency and the second largest supplier of tap water in the state of Georgia! I was able to get that internship in-part because of the research literacy that I gained from being on the ChemFlow team.

Also, I have been able to use my VIP experiences to help obtain my research assistantship in the School of Chemistry. I’m using this research experience to learn more about the fields of organic and quantum chemistry. My VIP experience has helped me to conduct better research in these assistantship positions.

Is there anything else you would like to say about the VIP program?

If someone’s interested in getting into chemical engineering or chemistry research, I would say that the ChemFlow VIP is the best place to start.

What I absolutely love about VIP is that it presents opportunities to get started in research in any field or in any topic because there are over 80 teams on campus. VIP opens a door to research that any student can enter. VIP will bolster your resume, your experience in any field, and your ability to interact and collaborate with others on research. What’s more is that VIP will instill a passion and appreciation for research!


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:kpietkiewicz3
  • Created:04/20/2020
  • Modified By:jhunt7
  • Modified:04/20/2020