Using research to break the mold
Bryan Benson, ’10 BS kicked off his research career the moment he walked into the lab on the first day of his freshman year, and hasn’t slowed down since.
Since graduating from Johns Hopkins with a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering in 2010, Benson has earned a PhD in chemical and biological engineering at Princeton, had three children, and accepted a position as research engineer at Solvay Specialty Polymers in Alpharetta, Georgia.
“It wasn’t normal to join a lab that early,” Benson acknowledged, “but I used the opportunity to make my formal education better because I related the lab work to what I was doing in class.”
Benson, who was the first in his family to go to college, got interested in microsystems during a presentation he attended on a visit to Hopkins. Exchanging the time he’d spent playing varsity sports in high school for 20- to 30-hour weeks in the lab, he’d embarked on his first research paper by the end of his first year, received a Provost’s Undergraduate Research Award to continue his research over the summer, and went on to win several fellowships that helped support his education.
He graduated as co-author of five papers and recipient of a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, which he used to attend Princeton. Since January 2016, he’s been doing process research for high-performance polymers at Solvay, where he says he relies on his background in microfluidics and translation from bench to scale.
The ChemBE lab’s mindset has followed him, too, as his lab mentors supported his pattern of breaking the mold. They taught him to give the unconventional a chance, he says, lending him confidence to pursue unlikely prospects. “We wouldn’t throw an idea out the window because it looked crazy; we’d try things we didn’t think would work, and get surprised by the results,” he says.
View Bryan’s 2008 video of chemically actuated microgrippers: https://figshare.com/articles/Pick_and_Place_Using_Chemically_Actuated_Microgrippers/2011134