Since 2000, a scholarship established in honor of late professor emeritus of chemical engineering, James O. Wilkes has supported outstanding undergraduate chemical engineering students that demonstrate a financial need to pay for their education.
Wilkes first came to Michigan in 1954 as a student. After receiving a master’s degree from U-M, he accepted a faculty position at Cambridge, serving on the University of Cambridge’s faculty from 1957-60. In 1960, Wilkes returned to Ann Arbor as an instructor.
Following a 40-year career at Michigan, serving as a professor and mentor, department chair and assistant dean, Wilkes retired in 2000.
After retirement, Wilkes remained an active member of the chemical engineering community until his death on December 6, 2020.
Wilkes is remembered for his dedication to helping students in need. After his retirement in 2000, admiring family, friends and colleagues created the James O. Wilkes Scholarship Fund, which has become one of the department’s major undergraduate scholarship sources.
His named scholarship has allowed students to minimize work hours outside of full-time course work, making a significant difference in the lives of students paying their way through school.
2022 graduate, Kat Sale was a recipient of the James O. Wilkes Scholarship. Sale joined the chemical engineering field to learn more about carbon dioxide (CO2) strategies.
“Without a scholarship, I would not have been able to study at the University of Michigan,” Sale said. “Being able to focus on getting my degree full time leading up to graduation was a dream come true.”
In her time as an undergraduate student, Sale was able to work with companies that specialize in capturing CO2 before it is released and design a capturing system with a small group of students.
“Due to the prestige of a degree from the University of Michigan, I was able to secure internships during my undergraduate studies and a position as a research engineer post-graduation,” Sale said. “Thanks to this scholarship, I was able to complete my degree and move forward with my goals.”
Another recipient and 2023 graduate, Emily Siew is a first-generation college student majoring in chemical engineering and minoring in computer science.
Throughout her academic career, Siew has been involved in modeling a system to study pulsatile flow through channels in the Eniola-Adefeso Lab.
Siew is involved in many extracurricular activities including serving as co-president of First Generation Engineers, dedicated to providing resources to first-gen students. She also works on the M-Fly Aero Design project team, is a member of the Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Honor Society and volunteers with the national non-profit college access program, Matriculate.
“This scholarship is making a big difference in my life because it allows me to focus on my academics without having to worry about how I will fund my education,” Siew said. “I’ve been able to participate in more extracurricular activities, take part in research, and have more time to study rather than having to spend that time working during the school year.”
After graduation, Siew hopes to make a difference by volunteering and working on meaningful projects. She has accepted a position with Procter & Gamble, and may consider a graduate program in the future.
“I am so thankful to the donors that have contributed to my education through this scholarship,” Siew said. “I hope to be able to give back to first generation students like myself in the future because I can see how much of an impact it can make on their lives.”
Learn more about supporting Michigan Chemical Engineering students.