Texas Tech University

Chemical Engineering Student Finds Purpose in Helping Others

Amanda Bowman

July 3, 2020

Dana Thalman won one of the university’s Student Academic Leadership Awards.

In February, Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech Parents Association announced the 2020 Student Academic Leadership Award recipients to honor outstanding students who excel both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting Texas Tech University students who were recognized.

Dana Thalman
Dana Thalman

Dana Thalman, a recently graduated Honors College student who majored in chemical engineering through Texas Tech University's Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, made the most of her college career. She was a senior undergraduate student leader in the chemical engineering department, with interests in medical technology and a passion for service, community engagement and commitment to outreach.

Thalman has served in leadership roles for the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) as the treasurer in 2018-2019 and as president this year. She led fundraising events for the Stroke and Aphasia Relief Program through the AIChE and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). She is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta/Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society.

Thalman has been active in research in the lab of Ted Reid, a professor of ophthalmology through the School of Medicine at TTUHSC, since 2017. She investigated synergistic combinations of antibiotics for post-op recovery of patients with cataracts.

Thalman represented Texas Tech in a research internship at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in Robert Capon's lab examining novel compounds with antibiotic properties against multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis, and in a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of California San Diego in Prashant Mali's lab researching teratomas as a model of embryonic human development. She also completed an engineering internship with Lucid Energy Group, a diversified energy company. Thalman plans to pursue a program where she'll simultaneously earn a doctor of medicine degree and a doctor of philosophy degree.

Thalman's dedication and hard work was recognized when she received one of the university's Student Academic Leadership Awards.

How are you a leader in the classroom?
To truly lead, leadership should be part of everything you do. This means striving for honor in the classroom. I choose to look at what I am learning as the springboard for my future. I find that by valuing what I am learning. I take classes, quizzes and homework much more seriously, which sets me up to be successful in them.

How are you a leader outside the classroom?
The most visible sign of leadership is being the president of AIChE, which has put me in a position to be a leader within my department. Often, leadership is just being willing to put in the work when something needs to be done and surrounding yourself with people who also are willing to do what it takes to make a goal successful. The best thing I have done for my department is talking good people into running for offices with me.

Why did you select your major?
Initially, I wanted to major in biomedical engineering and pursue a career in medical research. I was advised to get a broader foundation. I enjoyed chemistry in high school, so chemical engineering seemed like a natural choice. Now that I am looking forward to medical school, I am grateful I have a foundation in chemical engineering. The human body is a biological chemical plant, and looking at it that way has given me a unique perspective.

How do you intend to use your education in the future?
In the future, I plan to pursue a doctor of medicine degree and a doctor of philosophy degree and work in researching genetic diseases. Having a basis in chemical engineering will benefit me going forward. The body is a complex chemical factory, and looking at it from a "different" perspective will allow me to bring new ideas to the table. I am a firm believer that all learning experiences build on each other, and having a diverse background of knowledge will help me to succeed in the future.

How has Texas Tech helped you along the path to those goals?
The No. 1 way Texas Tech has allowed me to be successful in the present and plan for my future is by valuing me as a student. Texas Tech supports its students with opportunities like Undergraduate Research Scholars, presidential scholarships and study abroad scholarships. The idea of going to medical school is difficult enough without considering how to pay for it while repaying undergraduate student loans. When I talk to friends at other universities, I do not see the same support that Texas Tech gives their students.

The other way Texas Tech has supported me as a student is through the people who make Texas Tech the great university it is. From the moment I set foot on campus, I have had the opportunity to work with the most capable and caring faculty and students anywhere.

Who has had the biggest impact on you, and why?
The single biggest impact on my life has been my mom. Since I was little, my mom has believed in me and encouraged me to believe I could do anything. She also is the first person to call me out when I can do better. She has pushed me to succeed, and I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without her.