ChemE Future Leader: Cassidy Tan

Cassidy TanU of T’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) Co-op is a work-integrated learning program that helps undergraduate students gain 12 to 16 months of paid work experience before they graduate. This optional program enables undergraduates who have completed their third year of study to build meaningful work experience, strengthen their professional networks, and enhance their interpersonal and technical competencies.

Cassidy Tan (ChemE 2T4+PEY), is currently in her third year of study and will be interviewing with PEY employers soon. Since her first year, Cassidy has taken advantage of the wide variety of opportunities available through ChemE and has accumulated extensive scientific, extracurricular, and leadership experience. Her background will certainly make her a candidate of choice among PEY employers.

Tell me a bit about your university experience so far? Do you participate in any extracurricular activities?

The ChemE community at the University of Toronto is extremely supportive and I’m extremely glad to be a part of it. I am currently a Professional Development Co-Director for the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) U of T student chapter. Through this role, I help connect ChemE undergrads with faculty and alumni. Previously, I served as the First-Year Representative and Entrepreneurship Director for CSChE. I continued on with the club as I enjoy helping other students develop their best professional selves.

I am also currently involved in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) U of T chapter where I serve as the Director of Business Relations. Previously, I was involved in WISE as a High School Mentor and in the Club for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering (CUBE) as an Industry Outreach Junior Executive.

For the past two summers, I’ve had the privilege to work for two U of T research labs. After my first year, I worked with Professor Elodie Passeport where I got to explore the field of water quality research with a specific focus in chemical and microplastic contamination. After my second year, I worked with Professor Alison McGuigan where I gained exposure in tissue engineering and cancer research. In both labs, I assisted grad students in their research projects and simultaneously explored my own independent projects. I felt that these experiences gave me a good understanding of what chemical engineering was like in the context of academia, and helped me build confidence in fast-paced, project-focused settings.

Why did you choose to enroll in PEY Co-op? What are your expectations from PEY Co-op?

I enrolled in PEY Co-op as I believe that the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. While the undergraduate chemical engineering program at U of T provides many opportunities for hands-on learning through semester-long mock consulting projects and weekly labs, I believe it would be beneficial to explore how chemical engineering principles are applied in the workforce.

In what industry are you hoping to be placed and why?

I would love to work in the pharmaceuticals industry, general chemicals manufacturing, or consulting. I would love to use my skills and help tackle new challenges within those areas.

What industry would you like to work in after graduation?

As someone who is currently in a very early stage in their career, I am open to a wide range of opportunities. I’ve been mostly interested in pursuing fields within bioprocess engineering or biotechnology development because I am most familiar with these fields at the moment.

Where would you like to be in five years after graduation?

I would love to work with pharmaceuticals and biotech. I’ve been exposed to so many amazing developments in these industries within the confines of academia and it makes me excited for what’s to come. Since a chemical engineer’s main strength is scaling things up, I want to use this strength to bring these technologies to the forefront of healthcare. I would also love to incorporate more sustainable practices within these fields.

What are you great at?

I’m great at taking up many challenges simultaneously. At first, I was afraid of taking on challenges but I’ve since learned to embrace them as tools to develop who I am as an individual. Throughout my research position in the McGuigan Lab this past summer, I was exposed to a field I knew very little about and I got to learn many new things, ranging from hands-on technical skills to multimodal scientific communication. It was a daunting challenge because all the skills I learned were completely out of my comfort zone, and there was always something new to learn every other day. On top of that, I was operating on a tight time limit due to the short nature of summer research internships. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment after successfully tackling these challenges. I definitely noticed that I grew to be more resilient and self-sufficient after this experience, and it convinced me that I can push my boundaries even further moving forward in my career.

What is something you’re working on getting better at?

I am working on becoming better at asserting my ideas in large group settings by forcing myself to participate in speaking engagements with large audiences.

Interested in hiring a PEY Co-op student? Click the link to learn more about U of T’s PEY Co-op program.

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