Hot Young Engineers!

Cornell University Chemical Engineer Explains Why Fraternities Are So Important

Akhil Patel discusses life as an Engineer at Cornell University and securing an internship at Phillips 66

Akhil Patel, Chemical Engineer at Cornell University

Akhil Patel, Chemical Engineer at Cornell University

Cornell produces some of the world’s best and brightest engineers, and Akhil Patel is no exception. At Cornell, Akhil has excelled in one of the university’s most difficult majors, Chemical Engineering, while also staying very involved in several social activities on campus. Outside of Cornell, Akhil has also interned at Phillips 66, an oil and gas processing company headquartered in Houston, TX, where enhanced his knowledge and passion for Chemical Engineering.

Why did you choose to study Engineering at Cornell?

I chose engineering because I wanted a technical field that would enable me to utilize my problem solving skills to help others. I picked Cornell because when I visited I fell in love with the campus. If you haven’t seen it, it truly is gorgeous. Some people complain it’s in the middle of nowhere; I say enjoy the tranquil beauty of Ithaca!


What field of engineering are you studying, and what do you like the most about that field of engineering?

I’m studying chemical engineering. I love the field because of its breadth. With ChemE I truly am applying all the major sciences from physics and chemistry to even biology. The degree gives you a broad skill set to tackle a variety of problems, not just one type. This opens the door to a lot of industries and career paths, and is a good foundation with which to approach the rest of my life.


What organizations are you involved in and how have they impacted your experience at Cornell?

My fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, has been the principal organization with which I am involved. I have served a variety of leadership positions within the fraternity that have taught me a lot about planning, organization, and interpersonal relations. The friends I have in the fraternity are the dearest friends in my life and I know these bonds will last long past graduation. Additionally, several older brothers were also studying chemical engineering. The academic support and advice I received from them was invaluable as I progressed through the engineering curriculum.


What accomplishments have you achieved at Cornell that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of my accomplishments as Philanthropy Chairman of my fraternity chapter. When I entered the position, the chapter did not have a philanthropy program as we had just restarted roughly a year and a half before. However, we were ambitious and aimed to achieve the Knox Award, the highest award a chapter can receive from the General Fraternity (administrative body that oversees the many Beta Theta Pi chapters). Part of the Knox Award required that our chapter have an average of 20 service hours per brother. I organized many service opportunities for my fraternity brothers, started a philanthropy committee to get their input, individually approached brothers about their concerns and wants, and expressed upon the whole chapter the power of community service and its connection to our fraternal values. The result? An average of 45 service hours per brother and our first ever Knox Award!


What do you like to do for fun at Cornell?

I love chilling with my friends whether it be late night philosophical discussions, playing video or board games, or going to see a student group performance. Spending quality time with the people you care about is always the most fun for me.


What is the most impressive internship that you’ve done?

My most impressive internship was my summer internship as a Process Engineer for Phillips 66 at its Bayway Refinery in Linden, New Jersey. My main project was diagnosing an air cooler that wasn’t performing up to design specs. Its subpar performance was costing the refinery $900,000/year so I could make a sizeable impact if I could solve this issue. I built a model of the cooler and tweak different parameters to figure out what could be causing the deficiency we were seeing. Once I had figured that out, I came up with three options we could take. Evaluating these options involved contacting different equipment vendors and several different groups at the refinery. Once I had evaluated the options, I presented them to the leadership team for a final decision on which option to proceed with.


Do you think that internship will help you with your plans for the future?

Yes, I think that internship definitely will. It gave me a lot of hands-on experience in a variety of topics from interacting with older engineers and using modeling software, to evaluating a project from an economic standpoint. Additionally, it showed me that I have a passion for the oil & gas industry.


What are your plans for after graduation?

I plan to enter the workforce and continue searching for a position in the oil & gas industry.


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