Meet Michelle Durán-Chaves. Durán-Chaves is a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Rice University. Durán-Chaves is from Costa Rica and is a Rice Graduate Ambassador. Ambassadors are students who represent the university and help prospective students gain knowledge of student life as a graduate student at Rice.
Durán-Chaves chose Rice as a graduate school because of her participation at GCURS and enjoyment of research and academia. Her research focuses on the fundamental chemistry of nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs).
“Imagine a spaghetti noodle 40 feet long and then shrink it down so small that you can't see it anymore,” said Durán-Chaves. “We stick millions and millions of these together to make fibers like the ones that make clothes or ropes, except these fibers are special: they're stronger than the material that holds up bridges, flexible like strings, and can conduct electricity like charging cables.”
When she is not conducting research, she serves in various leadership roles within the Rice community. She is a part of Latin American Graduate Student Association (LAGSA) and the Chemistry department recruitment committee on campus. Fun with Chemistry volunteers with them.
Durán-Chaves advises prospective students to be very aware of what their interests are and work style.
“Every professor is different, every program is different and every university is different,” said Durán-Chaves. “You have to look for something in the style that works for you.”
Durán-Chaves' advice for prospective students is simple - be confident when approaching the application process, because you have the skill and talent to do this!
“Don’t ever feel like you’re not enough because of your language or if your native language is not English,” said Durán-Chaves. “We’re all here doing our best.”
Outside of academics, Durán-Chaves enjoys attending concerts and doing bike tours with her lab mates to try different restaurants. She also studied the flute and really loves painting and playing the flute and piano.