Martinez begins Ph.D. path in chemistry at Northwestern

Coming from a high school class of 19 students in Dallesport, Wash., Jose Martinez had an interest in studying chemistry but wasn’t sure how he would measure up against peers from around the country. But with support from an American Chemical Society scholarship, mentorship from his Cornell professors, and two high-level summer research experiences, Martinez is now confidently beginning a Ph.D. path in chemistry at Northwestern University, one of the nation’s top ten programs.

José Martinez '13
José Martinez ’13

Martinez plans to study inorganic chemistry with the goal of becoming an industrial researcher.  He’s excited to attend Northwestern because of its proximity to Chicago, but even more because of its chemistry department’s collaborative and open approach to research.

During his summer at the University of Illinois-Champaign, Martinez worked on improvements to fuel cell performance. And at Rutgers University the following summer, he assisted with developing a catalyst to improve the efficiency of converting syngas into transportation fuels, such as jet fuel.

“I really learned a lot about the life of a grad student, especially at the University of Illinois where the professors gave me my own project,” he said.

On campus, Martinez credits chemistry professor Charlie Liberko with helping him develop good study habits to make the somewhat difficult transition to college-level coursework.

“He taught me how to learn effectively, and chemistry became more intuitive once I developed a good foundation in those early classes. I found that my later classes were still a lot of work but not something that I couldn’t learn and overcome.”

Martinez nearly earned minors in physics and math but took a different tack during his senior year by completing seven computer science courses—enough to earn a second major. While he doesn’t have specific plans for integrating his computer skills into his career path, Martinez thinks his second major may produce long-term benefits.

“At Rutgers, someone told me that when hiring she looks for something that stands out, such as an M.B.A., because all the applicants look so similar on paper. So I think computer science gives me good skills that I may use someday.”

Jose Martinez’s highlights

  • Summer research at the University of Illinois-Champaign and Rutgers University
  • President of the Chemistry Club for two years
  • Marketing coordinator for the Career Engagement Center