Washington State University chemical engineering student Kristian Gubsch will soon have a front-row seat at a meeting that could change the world.

As one of eight students nationwide who will be delegates for the American Chemical Society at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he will travel across the world to interview scientists, policymakers, and national leaders.

Pursue your opportunities

We often assume that extraordinary achievements like this are the result of extraordinary circumstances. But the truth is, Gubsch earned this honor by pursuing opportunities that are open to all motivated students.

When seeking research and other experiential learning opportunities, students find that there are plenty of people on campus dedicated to helping them.

For instance, at WSU, peer mentors and staff advisers in the Office of Undergraduate Research help students like Gubsch develop foundational skills and get in touch with faculty members whose research areas fit their interests.

Gubsch started looking for research opportunities during his first semester on campus — and by the summer after his freshman year, he had a place on a faculty-led research team studying urban air quality that developed a network of smart air quality sensors.

He now studies ways to capture carbon emissions and turn them into useful products — a win-win for businesses and the environment. For example, the technology could allow power and chemical plants to adjust their combustion processes to form renewable, synthetic fuels that are ready for use in current combustion engines.

As a high school student in Edgewood, Washington, he saw the pressing need for action to change the course of the planet’s atmospheric warming. Gubsch’s desire to help tackle this problem has motivated him ever since.

He has always enjoyed math and science, so a major in chemical engineering was a natural choice. “The atmosphere and climate are based on chemistry, and I have a strong desire to solve problems through engineering,” said Gubsch.

Why do research in college?

Students who engage in undergraduate research will demonstrate to potential employers their ability to work independently, solve problems, think logically, and contribute to a team’s success. Research isn’t only for people in certain majors, nor is it reserved for people who are planning on grad school or academic careers. Research takes place in all branches of knowledge, whether it’s humanities, arts, social sciences, or STEM.

Gubsch urges incoming students to keep an open mind to the possibilities. “All of my research projects have been equally enjoyable,” he said. “Plus I gain new skill sets with each one.”

His research could also make a huge difference with innovative, emerging technology to limit the effects of climate change while benefiting businesses.

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You don’t have to become some kind of academic hermit, either. Gubsch definitely has a lot on his plate, but his research pursuits are just one part of a rich college experience.

“I use my free time for biking, friends, clubs, and intramural sports like volleyball, soccer, basketball, and floor hockey,” he said. “I’m also part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering student group, among other activities.”

Editor’s note: This story was modified after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Santiago, Chile, originally scheduled for December was canceled on October 30 due to protests and internal unrest. The United Nations is seeking a new location and possibly a different date for the meeting.

Learn more at wsu.edu.