The highest honour for graduates in the Faculty of Engineering is the Alumni Achievement Medal. Baoling Chen, who completed her PhD in Chemical Engineering in 2015 was bestowed this honour in recognition of her exceptional talent for strategic industry partnership development, mission-driven leadership, and disruptive biotechnology research.

“It is a great honour for me to win the Rising Star Alumni Achievement Medal. Upon graduation, I decided to pursue a career in applied research and hoped to make a positive impact on the community. So far, it has been a very rewarding experience. I want to express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of being selected as the recipient of this award,” says Chen. “I am very excited to continue contributing to my profession and community as a proud graduate of the University of Waterloo.”

After completing a BASc in Biochemical Engineering, Chen was inspired to pursue graduate studies. She regarded the University of Waterloo as a highly reputable school, well known for embracing diversity. She found that the research that her PhD supervisor, Professor Pu Chen, was conducting was of great interest to her.

As a PhD student, Chen enjoyed many seminars on different research topics. This exposure to various areas of research helped her to learn about exciting projects and sparked new ideas through discussions with speakers. For Chen, another wonderful surprise in the department was the Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association (CEGSA). Graduate students lead busy lives, working in labs, and writing papers and proposals, as well as tending to the responsibilities that come with being teaching assistants. CEGSA offered a variety of social events to foster connections with fellow students. Chen felt these activities eased the transition to graduate school for a lot of students, especially for international students.

Dr. Baoling Chen

“I was happy to be the president of CEGSA for a year and worked with a group of amazing people to help make our campus life more fun,” says Chen.

After completing her PhD, Chen began her career as a research scientist and later became the coordinator for the Bio-Industrial Process Research Centre. In 2019, she was nominated by Lambton College and appointed by NSERC as the Industrial Research Chair for Colleges, focusing on Advanced Biotechnology and Natural Health Products. While serving as the Industrial Research Chair in 2022, Chen was also appointed as the Manager of the Canadian Bio-Cleantech Applied Research Network (CBARN).

Her role in CBARN advances sustainability. CBARN is a network of six colleges and universities that partner with bio-based companies for research and innovation services. Chen manages CBARN and works closely with industry partners to guide them through technical or business hurdles. The goal is to support 65 bio-clean tech small and medium-sized enterprises in Southern Ontario. They will develop 80 technologies and commercialize 65 products toward the creation of a circular economy.

“Graduate studies are an invaluable life experience, reflects Chen. “There will be challenges along this journey and they will become your stories one day. If the work you do is aligned with your values, it will keep you motivated and eventually get you to the finish line.”

Her advice for future graduate students is to utilize the wealth of resources, (found for example, through the Centre for Career Development) and professional development training opportunities available on campus. These resources enable graduate students to develop skills and experience to take forward into their careers.