Iowa State REU student wins AIChE national poster competition

Alejandra Martinez_AIChE Poster winner 2013-1

Alejandra Martinez is the latest proof that Iowa State’s Biological Materials and Processes Research Experience for Undergraduates (BioMaP REU) program makes a substantial difference in students’ academic success.

In early November, Martinez won the Sustainability category of the Undergraduate Poster Competition at the 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in San Francisco. She was a member of Iowa State’s BioMaP REU program in 2013 and used research done within the program to attain first prize.

Martinez conducted her research in the Biorenewable Research Laboratory at Iowa State. She researched the thermal decomposition of lignin using a hydrogen-donor solvent to obtain bio-oil with stable monomeric phenols. A number of people assisted her in her research, including agricultural and biosystems engineering doctoral student Kwang Ho Kim, mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Xianglan Bai and Anson Marston Distinguished Professor Robert Brown.

Martinez is a senior in chemical engineering at Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (Tec de Monterrey in Mexico), which partners with the BioMaP REU program. Her professors and classmates who had participated in the program in the past told her about the opportunities it presents. She wanted to do research as an undergraduate and the projects BioMaP REU had available caught her attention.

Several BioMaP REU students, including Martinez, decided to go to the conference in San Francisco last month to present their work. She had a great time getting to see friends she had made over the summer, as well as her mentor and other Iowa State professors.

The AIChE meeting and poster session offered her great opportunities to network with professionals and students alike. She was also able to learn about postgraduate programs from other universities around the U.S.

Martinez will graduate from Tec de Monterrey in December 2013 with a degree in chemical engineering.

BioMaP REU at Iowa State University is a summer undergraduate research program funded by the National Science Foundation. For more information on the program and how to apply, visit


CBE Communications Intern Dan Cole contributed to this story.