Meet Shelby Brooks – Featured YP for January 2017

Where are you from?

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

What company/institution do you work for?

The University of Alabama

Where did you complete your chemical engineering education?

The University of Alabama

How many years have you been a member of AIChE?


Describe a recent challenge you managed, notable achievement, or obstacle you overcame at your job or in your work as an AIChE member.

I would say that I’ve had a few notable achievements this year. The first one was coordinating and hosting the ChemECar competition for the Southern Student Region. I absolutely love ChemECar, so it was a joy to get to learn about what all went into the planning of the competition. Secondly, I was chosen to serve as the president for the Graduate Student Association at Alabama. This is a huge honor to get to represent my fellow graduate students on campus, and it has already taught me a lot about university administration and advocacy. Finally, I earned my Master’s degree in December. 2016 was a very exciting year for me.

What do you do to meet people in your field?

The foremost way I meet chemical engineers is by attending AIChE Conferences. My first student conference was in spring 2012. I have attended every Southern Student Regional since, first as a student and now as a Young Professional Representative. The Annual Meeting every fall is where I get to foster existing relationships and create new ones with fellow professional members outside my region. As a result, I can now say I have friends all over the country whom I’ve met as a result of AIChE.

What is it about chemical engineering that you're most passionate about?

I am a curious person who likes to try to support those around me, and chemical engineering combines both of those qualities. I love discovering and understanding how things work, and research provides me this opportunity. Chemical engineers are solving problems that will make the world a better place to live in, be it in water and energy or pharmaceutical developments. You can never know the impact one “little” discovery could have in the future!

What are you working on that you think could change the world someday?

I am engineering a strain of bacteria to produce the high-value biochemical paraxanthine from caffeine using enzymes isolated from the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida CBB5. Paraxanthine has potential to serve as a therapeutic, but research is limited due to its high cost. My work focuses on creating a biocatalytic process for the economical and environmentally friendly production of paraxanthine.

Fill in the blanks: there are chemical engineers who _____ and who ______. 

Those who love ChemECar and those who are wrong. 

How has your relationship with AIChE helped you to fulfill your professional and personal goals?

Professionally, AIChE has given me a platform and a way to present my research and make valuable networking connections. Personally, I get to volunteer within the institute and continue being actively involved with the ChemE Car competition, which was one of my favorite things as an undergraduate and still is today.

If you weren’t a ChE, what would you most want to be? 

A dancer in a musical or a classic ballerina.

What don’t most people know about you?

My birthday is on February 29th, so I'm a leap day baby.

Do you have any advice for current or future young professionals reading ChEnected?

I hope they realize it is impossible to please everyone. Along with that, never give up. Keep pursuing your passion, and with hard work and dedication you can succeed.

You can contact Shelby through her LinkedIn profile.