Recent Graduate Spotlight - Andrea Birtles

By. Ashley Long

Recent Graduate Spotlight: Andrea Birtles

Major Chemical Engineering

Graduating Class Fall 2019

Hometown Aurora, IL


                Society of Women Engineers – Social Chair

                American Institute of Chemical Engineers – Exec Board Social Chair

                Kid’s Day Camp Coordinator for Chemical Engineering

What led you to the University of Iowa?

I visited a lot of schools when I was in high school and my parents signed me up for Explore Engineering Day here at Iowa. I met Jane Dorman, the director of admissions for the College of Engineering, and she had a great presentation. Jane and the other student ambassadors really sold the college for me. I felt like it was a very well established and inclusive environment. There was more of a one-common goal to get everyone to graduate rather than being a cut-throat program. I ultimately ended up working in that same role as a student ambassador, so it was like going full circle for me!

Why did you choose to major in chemical engineering?

My mom started college as a chemical engineer, but she moved to the United States from Mexico and was unable to finish her degree. So, she always told me [to look into chemical engineering because] I had really good problem-solving skills and I was also interested in math and chemistry. And that led me to choose my major.

What opportunities has the department provided for you?

The TA program that the department has is really beneficial for upper-class students because it allows us to navigate past the regular, standard curriculum of the class and makes us take it a step further.  I’ve been a TA for the last two semesters and that has really helped me solidify my own knowledge base of the classes.

I also like the mentor program the department has. I worked outside of the school and with a mentor in the industry. I’ve had my mentor since my sophomore year of college and we still keep in touch. I wasn’t aware of the type of jobs you could have after graduation, so it was nice to have somebody out in the industry to tell me that you don’t have to stay within a certain pool of jobs.

What has been your favorite class here at Iowa?

I really liked the Chemical Process Safety course. It was interesting and it’s a unique class that isn’t offered at all schools. Sometimes I would talk to my friends that I would meet from other schools that are also in chemical engineering that take most of the same foundation classes, but the safety class is a course that people don’t really take at other schools. The course gave me more of a perspective for going out on the plant floor or going near machines and equipment, what are the type of risks involved, and ways to mediate hazards. It’s crazy how much I was able to take from the class and apply it to the industry.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I will be taking a job in February that I had my co-op with last summer. It can be really hard to be able to find that initial place to get your foot in the door. Having that placement settled and done since the summer and having the opportunity to find jobs after college has been relieving.



Andrea Birtles in the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences.