Miranda was drawn to her research on renewable materials because of its "direct applicability to the real world,” she says. While scientific research can often seem disconnected from everyday life, the development of renewable plastics has tangible effects on environmental issues. Her research also reflects her personal interest in green living and green chemistry, which aims to minimize the generation of hazardous substances through chemical products and processes.
“Developing more sustainable ways of creating plastics is a critical step in eliminating the environmental problems associated with the plastics we currently use,” Miranda says. By understanding how the molecular machinery used to create renewable plastics operates, she hopes to develop new ways of making plastics from renewable resources using catalytic chemistry.
A native of Fort Collins, Colorado, Miranda came to the University of Minnesota for graduate school in 2009 after earning her bachelor's degree in chemistry from Boston University. After visiting numerous graduate schools across the country, Miranda found the U to be a perfect fit because of the "collaborative and dynamic environment" of the chemistry department.
"The department was unparalleled in its warm yet rigorous nature," she says. “I think the collaborative spirit and reputation of the department also is a huge help to finding jobs… Because of the collaborations I’ve participated in, I can clearly illustrate my ability to work on teams and work with others.”
During her time at the U, Miranda has received a Krough Fellowship and Block Grant from the UMN Department of Chemistry, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Mary Haga Travel Grant from the Xi Chapter of Graduate Women in Science, a Travel Grant from the UMN Department of Chemistry, and a Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship from the UMN Graduate School.
Miranda credits these grants and fellowships with allowing her to pursue her research without distractions. The awards have also opened up opportunities for Miranda to present her research at national and international conferences, experiences that she considers invaluable.
Miranda is also active in numerous community outreach projects. She collaborated with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as well as the chemical engineering and chemistry departments, to coordinate a booth at the Minnesota State Fair's Eco-Experience building in 2013, and she has devoted time to working with middle-school girls on science experiments. In addition, Miranda is a mentor for undergraduate women in the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) society on campus.
After her expected graduation in May, Miranda will begin working as a senior research chemist for 3M Company in the summer of 2014.
-- Lyra Fontaine