Rizia Bardhan, Associate Professor, Iowa State University

Hometown: Kolkata, India

Current City: Ames, IA

Graduation year: 2005

Majors: Chemistry and Mathematics

What other degrees have you earned? Ph.D. in Chemistry, Rice University, Houston, TX

What is your current career position? Associate professor, Iowa State University

Please describe your current work. I am a faculty member in chemical and biological engineering, where I both teach core courses and do research that is focused on the use of nanomaterials for disease detection and treatment.

What are your future goals? I hope to continue on this academic path and rise up the ladder to be a full professor and then hopefully into a leadership position in the Dean’s office.

In terms of your professional life, what would you say is your overarching purpose today? I strive to have a teacher-scholar model and be outstanding at it. In my seven years at Vanderbilt University, where I was an assistant professor, I have truly enjoyed teaching, which comes from my experiences at Westminster, where I had the pleasure of having some excellent teachers. I also enjoy pursing research and publishing scholarly work to make an impact on science and engineering.

Did your liberal arts education allow you to uncover particular passions that you’ve carried into your career? Yes, it sure did. I had a milieu of phenomenal teachers at Westminster who led me into an academic career. I have consistently scored well in my teaching evaluations, and I am certain it all started with my liberal arts experience at Westminster. Further, I also learned to be a good writer and presenter at Westminster, and whereas I honed those skills at Rice, the seeds were sown at my alma mater.

Were any relationships you formed at Westminster particularly influential in helping you find clarity of purpose? Yes, I pursued a Ph.D. in chemistry because of having excellent mentors such as Dr. Frerichs and Dr. Hansert who convinced me to achieve a higher education in this subject and then pursue a career in teaching and research.

What did you learn about leadership while at Westminster, and how has that translated into your life since graduation? A leader is someone who leads by example and changes the existing paradigm with outstanding achievements while teaching those following in their footstep to be humble, kind and generous in their interactions.  While at Westminster, I was a resident advisor, president of the Chemistry Club, vice president of the Pi Mu Epsilon National Honorary Mathematics Society, vice president of the International Club and a Student Ambassador. These opportunities shaped my leadership skills, leading me into other leadership positions beyond college.

What does success mean to you? Success in my opinion means when one has achieved their end goal in whatever their personal and professional ambitions are.

What is it about Westminster that makes it the kind of community that empowers students to discover their purpose and find success?  The liberal arts education; the small class sizes where students get so much one-and-one time with their teachers; an inclusive and immersive environment where international students such as me felt safe, accepted and able to start a life in the U.S.; and overall the genuine kindness I saw in my professors; the friends I made there; and those I worked for such as Linda Lorenz and Meg Langland at the Internship office, Judy and Randy at the bookstore, and others. All of these positive interactions helped me navigate where I am today.

Do you recommend Westminster to prospective college students? Yes, I do, and I would also like an opportunity to hire undergraduates from Westminster who may be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering.

Favorite Westminster faculty member? Dr. Bernie Hansert

Favorite spot on campus? Coulter Science Center

Last book you read? One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

Favorite TV show? Designated Survivor

Favorite way to spend a Sunday? Outdoors, hiking with my two boys, Jonah (5) and Elan (3), and my husband, Cary

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.