Industrial engineering major Chelsea Obade DRC’25 is a leader in the classroom, the research laboratory, and the Reilly Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community. An accomplished STEM student, Obade has excelled in her field. At the same time, she’s embraced an interdisciplinary approach to her major, leading her to use her talents in unexpected ways.
Through Douglass’ Project SUPER Undergraduate Research Program, Obade does research with Kimberly Cook-Chennault, Associate Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. Together, they work on a study that focuses on the impact of online learning games on college-aged engineering students.
“This was a huge opportunity I got through Douglass,” said Obade. “I learned valuable critical skills like performing my first experiment, developing my procedure, and writing project reports. At the same time, I learned soft skills that are crucial to lab work, such as teamwork and intuitive thinking. ”
The project takes a unique approach to traditional STEM research, focusing on the intersection of educational theory and STEM. For Obade, the interdisciplinary nature of the research allowed her to start thinking about what STEM work outside the classroom can look like.
“I was never really exposed to the lab,” said Obade, “Before, I was seeing my major in a purely academic sense. Actually doing things hands-on made the concepts more tangible to me. It also gave me an open mind about what I can accomplish, as I began to see how I fit into the STEM world beyond a purely academic sense.”
Outside the lab, Obade continued to explore the intersection of STEM and education. This year, Obade was one of several Douglass student mentors that connected with high school-aged students from a rural area of Migouri County in Kenya. In each session, the Douglass mentors worked with the girls on STEM projects, which included making chapstick and building solar-powered fans. Douglass partnered with RU Global and Rongo University in Kenya for the project.
“When I saw the opportunity was with Kenya, I was interested right away since I was born in Nairobi,” said Obade. “But what made it so special was interacting with the students, seeing them blossom, connect, and engage.”
When she graduates, Obade hopes to work in the industrial engineering field, which focuses on finding efficiency in the workplace on manufacturing floors. While she doesn’t plan to go into education, her experiences as a mentor helped Obade further realize the importance of pursuing her own brand of people-centered STEM.
“We built a small community throughout our time together,” she said. “The students helped me realize that, in the future, I need to work with people. Industrial engineering, and engineering in general, can be very technical and even isolating. This experience taught me that working in a community is an important part of my career satisfaction.”
By engaging with interdisciplinary interests and programs, Obade is a role model for other Rutgers students seeking to enrich their education with experiences outside the classroom.