As a senior in chemical engineering, Nicholas Kusanto is about to wrap up his studies at Oregon State University. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hear about his endeavors after he graduates. A truly inspiring, hopeful young man, Nicholas strives to change the world with his skillset and optimistic outlook on life, getting involved in everything from the AIChE student club to a study abroad program in Taiwan.
“I originally went into engineering because I thought I could save the world,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to dream of doing anything.”
Nicholas has taken full advantage of his ability to dream. His long list of other involvements include activities president of McNary Hall, Engineers Without Borders (a student humanitarian group), a public policy internship in Washington, D.C., and a two-year water remediation research project working with environmental engineering researcher Jeffrey Nason.
Nicholas said his interests have evolved naturally during his time in the College of Engineering. After receiving an honorable mention at a poster competition, where students from around the northwest presented their research, his academic focus shifted. He wanted to use his engineering background to facilitate public policy decisions and make a difference in society.
A study abroad stint in Taiwan inspired him to get more involved and think deeply about his contribution to the world. He participated in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and is now the club president. Instead of pursuing an engineering internship, Nicholas opted for a public policy one in D.C. There, he learned how engineers and scientists help influence the policy process. He consulted government agencies and private industries to develop policy recommendations to strengthen U.S. water infrastructure. Recently, he presented his findings at the National AIChE conference in San Francisco.
Being able to address a real problem was particularly gratifying.
“Research is great, but it’s even better if you can apply it. What I wanted to do was help and be around people while I helped,” he said.
As president of Engineers Without Borders, Nicholas has encouraged greater student involvement through events such as a professor-student meet up and by collaborating with the Student Sustainability Initiative on campus to create a rainwater catchment system. A similar EWB project in Lela, Kenya has been nationally recognized, receiving both the EWB-USA premier project award and the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) Student Project Award.
While all his extracurriculars can be difficult to balance at times, Nicholas has made valuable connections that continue to inspire his pursuit of new opportunities.
His advice for other would-be concerned citizens looking to grow as a student?
“Get involved in any small interest that you have, even if the initial meetings are awkward. Sometimes it takes forcing yourself to do something. And it pays off! You can look back and know that you did your best.”