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Chemical Engineering Graduate, April Bourlet, selected as the Spring 2023 University Outstanding Graduate

Ms. April Bourlet has been named the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Outstanding Graduate.  Selected from among eight award finalists, she will be recognized during the Spring 2023 Commencement ceremonies.  April will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with a Bioengineering Concentration and a minor in Chemistry and a cumulative grade point average of 3.95.

Nominated by the College of Engineering and Dean Ahmed Khattab, the award is based on leadership, scholarship and service which serve both the University and the community. April was also named the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Graduate, and the Department of Chemical Engineering’s Outstanding Graduate.

"April Bourlet is an outstanding graduate who embodies the essence of excellence, dedication, and compassion, said Dean Ahmed Khattab. April's exceptional academic abilities as a female engineer serve as an inspiration to all, as she breaks barriers and paves the way for future generations of women in STEM. Her remarkable achievements are only surpassed by her genuine kindness and willingness to support others, making her an outstanding role model for the community. With a heart of gold, April's selflessness and dedication to serving others make her an invaluable asset to any community fortunate enough to have her. She embodies the true spirit of leadership and compassion, and her impact will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the world," continued Khattab.

In 2020, April was granted the Supervised Undergraduate Research Experience SURE award by the Louisiana Board of Regents to stimulate competitive research (LA EPSCoR). In her research, she published a poster entitled “Effects of Carbon Templates in Tetraethyl Orthosilicate Derived Superhydrophobic Coatings,” using three different carbon composites. A large potential market for superhydrophobic coatings is corrosion-resistant layers that prevent structural integrity issues, improve safety, and decrease ongoing capital costs. It has excellent water repellency and can be applied to electronics and others for corrosion resistance, anti-icing, and oil-water separation applications. Her poster took First Place in the 2023 Engineering & Technology Week Poster Competition. April is a co-author on a peer-reviewed journal paper with her faculty advisor, Dr. Ling Fei. Her research paper was recently published in 2023 by the Langmuir Journal.

Her senior design capstone project was to design, build and research the most effective method to optimize a propylene oxide manufacturing plant.  After economic analysis, the team needed to increase the production of propylene oxide to produce six hundred million pounds per year for sustainability. April completed a process hazard analysis and added an air separation unit which helped to bring the plant into the black. A co-product of propylene oxide is styrene. Styrene is a chemical used to make latex, synthetic rubber, and polystyrene resins. She was the lead in the group and designed chemical equipment and processes for the production method utilizing Aspen Plus software.

In 2023, April was chosen to represent the Chemical Engineering Department by Department Head, Dr. Rafael Hernandez as the Advanced Research Ambassador for the Department.

The Student Center for Research, Creativity and Scholarship (SCRCS) awarded April a Leaf Award for Excellence in Research, Creativity, & Scholarship in Engineering and Technology. April’s Student Research Experience (SRE) project was entitled “Varying morphological carbon templates on the coating performance of superhydrophobic surface coating.” She was nominated and mentored by Ling Fei, Professor of Chemical Engineering.

April is a big believer in safety and strives to improve safety in chemical processes.  Following her passion, in 2023, April received an ELA901 certification from the Safety and Chemical Engineering Education (SAChE) Certificate Program in Chemical Process Safety in the Chemical Process Industry as well as OSHA safety training.

In Summer 2021, April worked as a Process Engineering Intern for GIS Engineering, LLC analyzing piping and instrumentation diagrams and process flow diagrams as well as sizing for pressure safety valves.  In the Summer of 2022, April worked as a Chemical Engineering Intern for International Paper.  There she was able to optimize processes and developed safety procedures and operational trials.

April has been on the President’s list for three years and on the Dean’s list in Fall 2022. She is a member of the UL Honors Program (2019 – present) and will receive an honors cord for graduation. April is also a member of the Omega Chi Epsilon engineering honor society.

Although April has exhibited great leadership throughout her educational journey, she is always working to improve her leadership skills and signed up for the Designing Leaders Program in Spring 2023 in the College of Engineering. The Designing Leaders Program, a volunteer program, provides participants opportunities to learn leadership skills not taught in the classroom from some of the community’s most influential and prestigious leaders. In addition, she has served for the last two years as an Engineering Ambassador dedicating many hours of her time to promote the College. She served as an example to make a difference in the lives of future engineers, especially other young women in the community.

April has been attuned to the lack of women in STEM positions through industry associations made through her parents.  She “loves a good challenge” and decided a long time ago that she needed to make a difference in the lives of other young women. In her sophomore year, COVID year 2020, she decided to join the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and ran for Treasurer with the goal of major fund raising and having the organization excel. She remains the treasurer today and SWE is actively recruiting young women throughout the community and promoting STEM at high schools. Today, SWE plays a huge role in Engineering & Technology EXPO Days, Preview Days and community outreach. April’s message to young women is “we have a support system (SWE) to help and motivate you and you can do it.”

April’s scholarly activity is very impressive and Chemical Engineering is a rigorous program, yet she still found time for her love of sports.  April has played intramurals for volleyball for the last two years. In addition, she joined a group at UL who were into rock climbing. They wanted to compete, so April helped to create an official rock-climbing student organization and ran for treasurer with the goal of fund raising so they could travel to compete.  April was Treasurer for the UL Ragin’ Cajun Climbing Club in 2021-2022.

She participated in the ChemE Sports Team in 2022 and her team was awarded Safety Sorcerer (lowest number of alarms), first place winner in round three and third place winner in round one in a national competition, competing against thirty-two teams from seven countries.

April is the recipient of multiple scholarships to include the Cabot Corporation Scholarship, the UL Engineering Alum Scholarship, the Louisiana Engineering Society Scholarship, and the Dr. James Garber Scholarship to name a few.

Her community service included participating in the R1 grand celebration, volunteering for preview days, helping with departmental tours, assisting with career development workshops in the college of engineering, Get on Board Day, Engineering & Technology Week, Rec Fest at Bourgeois Hall, the Big Event (3 years), Hurricane Ida cleanup, St. Joseph’s Diner, Angel Giving Tree at St. Joan of Arc Parish Church, and Ragin Cajun Catholics.

April is looking forward to graduation, although she will miss her “home” here at UL Lafayette. In fact, she looked for a community like Lafayette where she can contribute and be involved with her fellow citizens. She has chosen Covington, Louisiana. She has accepted a position with International Paper and will be working in Bogalusa, LA as a Process Engineer.  She is excited to use her knowledge gained here at the university to improve the safety of the chemical engineering process. She also looks forward to returning to UL for career fairs representing International Paper to encourage others, especially young women, to follow in her path.

It seems that service and community have always been very important to April, even throughout high school where she was awarded the Gold Service Hour Award (over 100 hours service hours): 2017 – 2019 and the St. Timothy Award (2018), which is the highest award the Archdiocese of New Orleans can bestow upon a young person. This national award seeks to recognize, from the diocesan level, outstanding youth who exemplify Christian service, Catholic leadership, and good moral standards. In addition, she received the Our Lady of Grace Service Award in 2019, for 727 hours of Service.

Congratulations April - so well deserved!

For more information on all the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Outstanding Graduate nominees go →here.