Charles Steuerwald: From Knowing Nothing to Head Nerd

Student posing with two other people, while holding up a certificate.

"I came in knowing nothing." And yet, Charles has gone on to do great things with research, including participating in an NSF-funded program at the University of Miami. He believes everyone can do research. Check out his inspiring story!

Charles Steuerwald is not your stereotypical chemical engineer. He’s actually one of the chattiest, most articulate scientists you’ll ever meet, and his excited tone perfectly matches his inspiring story.

Charles’s journey in research started less than a year ago, when he and a friend were looking for internships and research positions to start during winter break. “We went to CURCA [Center for Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities] because we heard they could help us out. Tim [Tryjankowski] recommended that we apply online. I emailed ten of the professors, had interviews with two, and chose my current position from the two offers.”

As for what it’s like starting a research position, he says, “I came in knowing nothing, but you learn it as you go. It was definitely a challenge—the learning curve was big—but then you become the expert of your group, which is really great.” When speaking at conferences, “It’s like you stand up in a room of nerds, and you’re the head nerd for your topic. And PhDs are just coming at you with their nerd questions. It’s so much fun!”

Charles was able to have experiences like presenting at conferences due to the support of CURCA. In addition to connecting him with the position that gave him the research experience he needed to develop his passions and career goals, CURCA also helped fund his research project, culminating in a paper and poster presentation at the Celebration of Student Academic Excellence. Leveraging these experiences at UB, he applied for and was accepted to a program funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of Miami where he spent ten weeks over the summer running simulations on protein inhibitors that could be implicated in future medicines for the treatment of cancer.

Doing research at UB isn’t just useful for being competitive for other research programs, Charles explains. Additionally, “You learn how to professionally interact with professors who are really, really smart. Having those interactions helps you learn how to interact with people in a work setting.” It’s also great for networking and finding specific aspects of your field that you’re passionate about. Charles loves his current research because it’s so cutting edge and has a precise purpose that involves helping people.

And even though he’s an engineer, he emphasizes that we need all kinds of people involved in research, especially communicators. “You don’t have to be working with math equations to be a scientist and push forward human knowledge. There’s something for everybody out there.”


Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19