Alejandra Rocha

MS Chemical & Petroleum Engineering
Previous Institution: University of Kansas
Hometown: Cochabamba, Bolivia
Primary office:

Why was the KU School of Engineering the right choice for you?

After working for 2 years in industry, I decided to return to KU for a Master’s degree. I chose KU for several reasons, among the most important are the teaching and mentoring qualities at KU. From my undergraduate experience at here, I had seen that the staff and faculty are truly supportive of students’ advancement and are receptive to students’ interests and opinions, both in class and in research. Additionally, top reasons for returning included research, funding, and campus facilities. The school continues to on-board bright and distinguished faculty, creating a larger variety of research topics ranging from biomedical to automotive. Most topics focus on real world applications, such as the biodiesel initiative, and catalyst research to make PET production more efficient and environmentally friendly. Therefore, I was certain that I would find a project that suited my interests. Financial support was an important factor in my choice to attend KU. The school offers numerous scholarship opportunities as well as Graduate Teaching Assistant and Research Assistant positions, in addition to public and private funding which professors obtain on their projects. This possibility was quite important for me as it would allow me to completely focus on my classes and my research. Finally, the engineering facilities are a great advantage, and it was an important aspect in my decision. New, accommodating labs and common areas certainly add motivation to spend time on campus and boosts my research productivity.​

What are you currently researching?

My research studies the desalination method of seawater using clathrate hydrates. The process involves placing a refrigerant fluid in contact with saline water at a certain pressure and temperature to form crystalline water structures, called clathrate hydrates. Clathrate hydrates can be described as ice-like structures which enclose a guest molecule in the center; in this project, the guest is the refrigerant fluid. The salts do not form part of the structure, and can therefore stay in a concentrated salt solution, or brine. The brine can be separated from the “ice” through gravimetric techniques, and the clathrates can be melted thus releasing the refrigerant fluid. The freshwater is then separated from the refrigerant fluid using density differences.​

What is your favorite thing on campus or in Lawrence that a prospective student should check out?

The campus in general! Fall and spring are great times to take a stroll around Potter Lake and the campanile.  In addition, Mass St. near the winter holidays is amazing!!

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students?

My first advice is come see the KU Engineering campus! Written descriptions do not do it justice. The research facilities are great, and we keep getting new research space with the continuous construction of state-of-the-art buildings. My second advice is to contact current students who are researching under the professor you are interested in working with. We may have more time to answer all the questions you have and can give you a first-hand experience of the research going on and the atmosphere of the research group.​

Which committee are you on and what would you like to do in the next year to help current graduate students?

I am in the Professional Development committee and I would like to help create more opportunities for grad students to explore their potential career paths. As an example, I would like to host a Q&A panel with professionals from industry, R&D, and academia. Through an open session, students would be able to compare different occupation fields to better define their career goals. I think it would also be beneficial to host a workshop where students edit their resume and LinkedIn profiles with guidance from recruiters from the aforementioned career areas, as the expectations may differ for each area.


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