Jesse Hinricher ’19

Jesse Hinricher ’19
Advisors: Dr. Barry Johnston (academic); Dr. Fikile Brushett (research)
10-Eng concentration: Materials Process and Design

Why did you decide on course 10?

In high school, I was fortunate to take AP Chemistry with a fantastic teacher, Mr. Dulas, who inspired my love of chemistry. Also, growing up on a farm, I wanted to continue using my hands to build productive equipment. Chemical engineering was the natural choice for me. It combined the technical skills I sought with the practicality to turn an idea into reality. When I transferred to MIT, I chose to continue majoring in chemical engineering because I knew it would give me a rigorous and flexible background that I can build on in graduate school. Generally, chemical engineering prepares students equally well for graduate school or industry. Chemical engineering is a versatile degree that equips graduates to have a long and fruitful career in whatever they choose.

What attracted you to 10-ENG?

As a transfer student, I wanted to both graduate in a reasonable amount of time and have a broad undergraduate experience that I could refer back to for many years. Before coming to MIT, I took a year away from school to work for a solar technology startup in Silicon Valley. While there, I was exposed to many aspects of materials science and engineering. I hoped to have the opportunity to study more of the concepts I worked with in my job when I came to MIT. I was happy to learn of 10-ENG and made a quick decision to pursue it. I was attracted to the diversity of courses that could fill the requirements and was confident that I could find something to interest me; indeed, almost everything that fills the 10-ENG requirements I wanted to take!

How was your experience designing your curriculum?

I was fortunate to have an idea of which track I wanted to pursue by the time I transferred to MIT. I was glad at the breadth of classes that could fill the 10-ENG requirements and created a list of classes that interested me. I met with my 10-ENG advisor and he recommended which courses made a coherent theme. I wanted to learn about electrochemistry and gain a foundational understanding of Course 3, Materials Science and Engineering. I chose to take 3.012, 3.014, 3.07, 10.426, and 10.467 to fulfill my requirements. This combination of courses allowed me to experience Course 3 and learn about electrochemistry and energy storage technology; all while making progress toward my degree.

What are you doing now? Did 10-ENG help you with your career or personal growth?

As a graduating senior, I am in the process of deciding which graduate school I will attend next year. I will pursue energy storage technologies that I learned more about by taking classes in my 10-ENG track. 10-ENG gave me the ability to take classes that I otherwise would not have; these classes sharpened my passion for energy storage and expanded my comfort zone.

Do you think 10-ENG is beneficial for undergrads?

I think undergraduates who are interested in a range of topics or fields will benefit from the flexibility of this major. Allowing undergraduates to tailor our major to fit our interests, or to explore areas that we would not otherwise be able to lets us take an active role in our education. We, as undergraduates, still get the core of chemical engineering, 10.10, 10.213, 10.301, 10.302, and 10.37, but we can choose labs and electives to make us more well-rounded or specialized on a certain topic.

[Read More about Jesse – MIT News]

Akshar Wunnava, ’14, ’15

Why did you decide on Course X for your undergrad?

The three big reasons that led me to choose Course X were research, skill set, and the department itself.

After conducting research on climate modeling in high school, I came to MIT with the intent of focusing on energy studies. I found that Course X had several professors conducting research relevant to a wide array of energy applications (virus batteries/solar cells, energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, enhanced oil/gas recovery, etc.). So no matter which sector of energy I wished to focus on down the road, I knew chemical engineering would not only be applicable, but also highly useful.

In my first year, I participated in a UROP in the Strano Lab on thermopower waves. This experience exposed me to how chemical engineering concepts can be applied to study a system. In particular, I felt that chemical engineering provides the technical know-how to focus on solving problems at the molecular scale, while maintaining an overall systems-level view of how all the pieces fit together in a process. This is an approach that is very useful not just in chemical engineering, but in any industry or field.

Through my UROP, I also found out about Monday-afternoon research seminars where I learned more about research in chemical engineering, and also got a better feel for how the department is structured. The size of the ChemE Department was just right for me – not so big that it’s easy to get lost or hard to develop a rapport with professors, but at the same time, not so small that you feel limited in the opportunities the department has to offer. Since each undergrad class (~50-70 students) takes all the core classes together, I felt that the structure would really allow me to develop a core group of peers and lifelong friends.

…and I never once regretted my decision!

What attracted you to 10-ENG?

My main goal when I came to MIT was to learn as much as I could about energy, which I knew would require an interdisciplinary approach. I learned about energy economics and policy through majoring in Course XIV (Economics) and minoring in Public Policy. When it came to developing a technical skill-set, I knew that I liked the way chemical engineers think about problems. However, I would be lying if I said only chemical engineers had a unique perspective. Since solving the energy crisis of our day is going to require diversity of thought, I wanted to interact with and learn from my peers in different departments as well. When I learned about 10-ENG, I thought it presented an interesting opportunity to take classes in other departments and learn about how our friends in MechE, MatSci, or Physics (and others) solve problems and think about energy. I jumped at the opportunity and was the first student to sign up for 10-ENG. Of course, I concentrated in Energy Studies, which had the added benefit of being advised by Prof. Robert Armstrong, the Director of the MIT Energy Initiative.

For anyone interested in Energy Studies, I highly recommend looking into the Energy Minor as well (

How was your experience in designing your own program?

I am extremely satisfied with the 10-ENG program I designed for myself, with help from my advisor. Since I was a part of the inaugural class of 10-ENG, the department was also figuring out how the program should be structured. The electives offered within each concentration were quite varied and numerous. For example, within the Energy concentration, I took classes from global change science to electrochemical energy storage to the Physics of Energy (I highly recommend this one!). Since there were so many courses that I was interested in, it was not difficult to schedule in enough classes to fulfill the requirements without conflicts. The only difficult part was choosing only 6-7 classes out of all the options. The advising for 10-ENG is very good, because the areas of expertise of all the advisors are closely aligned with the interests of the students. I was able to talk to Prof. Armstrong very openly not only about which classes I wanted to take, but also about my research and career ambitions.

What are you doing now? Did 10-ENG help you with your career or personal growth?

10-ENG helped me expand my network of peers who were interested in energy beyond just Course X. Through these friendships, I became quite involved with the MIT Energy Club and eventually served as one of its Co-Presidents. Through these experiences and from mentorship from Prof. Armstrong, I also worked on two start-ups during my time at MIT. The first aimed to develop bacterial batteries for off-grid lighting applications in Indian villages, which involved working closely with biological engineers. The second was developing bicycle-powered battery chargers for use in LED lanterns in off-grid Indian villages, which involved working with mechanical and electrical engineers.

After finishing my undergrad in 2014, I stayed an additional year for the Masters in Chemical Engineering Practice (mainly because I just wan not’t ready to leave MIT or Course X!). This was a phenomenal program and the industrial component in the end really showed me how valuable it was to have diversity of thought. In the real world, you are no longer working with only chemical engineers. So, it is advantageous to be able to communicate effectively with engineers from different disciplines, for which I think 10-ENG prepares you well.

After my time at MIT, I wanted to combine all of the skills I had learned from engineering to economics and policy, but still wanted to explore the energy industry as a whole. So, I decided to start my career in consulting at McKinsey & Company, in their Houston office.

Do you think 10-ENG would be beneficial for MIT and Course X undergrads?

I think 10-ENG and flexible degree programs in general add a lot to MIT and offer a lot of benefits for undergrads. First, it allows for cross-pollination of knowledge across the engineering disciplines. Meeting other students across the Institute is possibly one of the best learning experiences at MIT. Second, if you know you are interested in a particular field, like energy, environmental science, biomedical sciences, or materials science, then 10-ENG would allow you to develop expertise in that area, more so than would the regular degree program. Especially with the accreditation of 10-ENG, there really is no downside to 10-ENG if you are passionate about your concentration.

Do you have any other thoughts about your personal 10-ENG path or the program in general?

One of the most common questions people ask about 10-ENG is the designation of the degree. The regular Course X SB degree reads “Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering”, while the 10-ENG degree reads “Bachelor of Science in Engineering as recommended by the Department of Chemical Engineering”. I’ll be honest – this was one of my major concerns when I was considering the program. However, after talking to numerous professors and employers themselves, I can safely say that no one really bothers with the name of the degree. They care about what classes you take and what you learn. For example, if you are a 10-ENG student concentrating in Energy Studies, then your academic course work is more suited to the needs of an employer in the energy industry. So, it really is an advantage when it comes to finding jobs within your concentration.

The second thing I hear about 10-ENG is that it is a way to get out of taking some of the Course X requirements. If this is the case, one should think hard about why he/she is Course X in the first place. 10-ENG is right for only those students who are passionate about their concentration and are fairly certain that they want to pursue either work or further studies in that concentration. In this situation, 10-ENG can be an extremely rewarding and enriching experience. Choosing 10-ENG was by far one of the most impactful academic decisions I have made and I am quite thankful the program was created.

Larissa Kunz ’15

Graduation Year: 2015

Why did you decide on Course X for your undergrad?

Going into undergrad, I was very interested in alternative energy, particularly alternative fuels. Having enjoyed chemistry, physics, and especially math courses in high school, I decided that Course X would be a good means of pursuing these interests and preparing myself for a career in fuels. To be honest, I did not know what chemical engineering was, but given that Course X graduates wind up going into a wide variety of different fields, I decided ChemE would give me a solid background even if my career goals were to change significantly.

What attracted you to 10-ENG?

I participated in the MITEI pre-orientation program DELTA, through which I learned about the energy studies minor and flexible degrees like 2-A. I wanted to learn about developments in energy research and decided to pursue an energy studies minor. 10-Eng was a new program at the time and was not particularly well-known. When I found out about 10-ENG at a Course X department overview session a couple months later, I realized that this program could help me better integrate my interest in energy into my ChemE coursework in addition to pursuing the energy studies minor. When the program became ABET accredited a year later, I decided to do it; naturally, I chose a concentration in energy. I hoped that this integration of an energy focus into my Course X coursework would teach me how to apply the skills and knowledge gained from a ChemE background to contemporary energy issues.

How was your experience in designing your own program?

The flexibility allowed by designing much of my own program enabled me to take courses I might not have been able to fit in as well otherwise. At the start of my first year, I looked through the MIT course catalog, course descriptions provided by MITEI, and Course 10 degree paths in order to put together a preliminary 4-year plan. As both my interests and some of the courses offered changed from year to year, I deviated from the original plan, but it nonetheless helped me easily organize my program and ensure I was meeting all requirements. My advisor, Professor Armstrong, helped me make a number of decisions about these deviations by making sure I know about new courses being offered and sharing his knowledge and opinions about the topics covered in certain courses.

What are you doing now? Did 10-ENG help you with your career or personal growth?

I am now participating in the Course X M.S.CEP program. While doing 10-ENG gave me a better understanding of progress and limitations in the energy industry, I still took many of the same classes as those students doing straight X; while I was originally concerned that deviating from the traditional ChemE coursework might present a disadvantage in the M.S.CEP program, I have not found this to be an issue. Instead, the more flexible degree enabled me to focus more on my interest in energy, and I look forward to applying my improved understanding of problems in energy to my future research and/or work in industry.

Do you think Course 10-ENG would be beneficial for MIT and Course X undergrads?

I would recommend 10-ENG to anyone with a strong interest in one of the 10-ENG concentrations, especially if you want to take a relatively large number of courses in that concentration area or if you are fairly certain that you want to pursue a career in that field. The concentrations are broad enough that you do not narrow in your career options, in my opinion; instead it helps you shift your knowledge and skill set towards the interdisciplinary field you are interested in.

Do you have any other thoughts about your personal 10-ENG path or the program in general?

Putting together a plan – or more accurately several potential plans – for all of my undergraduate courses wound up being really helpful in making decisions about my program along the way. Between that and the help of my advisor and a couple other professors I had, putting together my 10-ENG program wound up being easy, and the program was a very positive experience and has opened a lot of doors for me.