Student Profile: Silvia Vina Lopez

Silvia LopezSpanish Exchange Student Focused On Wood Plastic Composites, Nanocomposite Technology

Through a partnership between the University of Maine and the University of Santiago de Compostela, Silvia Vina Lopez was able to come to UMaine to expand her education. Lopez is a third year undergraduate student majoring in Chemical Engineering. Lopez is from Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Lopez attended summer programs throughout high school at both Harvard and Stanford, taking classes that ranged from international relations to environmental politics.

“I took classes that seemed interesting and that I couldn’t take in high school. They weren’t anything I would major in, but something I wanted to get a feel for,” Lopez said.

Following high school, Lopez decided that she wanted to pursue engineering. She took advantage of the partnership her home university had with UMaine and attended UMaine for the 2014-15 school year.

After being on campus and taking a handful of engineering classes, Lopez became interested in composite materials.

“I took a class on advanced materials, and we had to do a project at the end where we had to choose a material and work on it and give a presentation. My material was wood plastic composites,” Lopez said.

Before coming to the US, she attended a composites conference in Paris. After talking with her professor about composites, she was referred to the UMaine Composites Center for an internship opportunity.

Lopez was required to have an internship as part of her degree program, and after touring the center, she made the decision to accept a summer position.

“When it came time to choose an internship, I wanted to work at the UMaine Composites Center,” Lopez said. “I love it here. There are so many projects going on.”

Lopez is working with wood plastic composites as well as nanocomposite technology under the direction of Chris West. Lopez says West encouraged her to experience as much of the center’s projects as she can.

“Chris wanted me to learn as much as I can so he would tell me to go check out other projects. It was great to see what people are doing. You can learn so much by just watching.”

“I thought research was a lot faster, but there’s a process to everything – there’s always a reason why things are done a certain way,” Lopez said on her research experience. “In theory, everything might work, and the numbers are all perfect, but then you try it and it’s not that simple. You have to figure out a new way to do things. I’ve learned a lot about that process.”

When compared to other internships Lopez has heard about, she says her experience at University of Maine surpassed them all.

“The amount of things I learned in two months doesn’t compare to my friends in the same major doing the same thing. It’s not even close. Everything works out, every single detail. Here, everyone made sure you had everything you needed.”

The positive experience at the center and in the US has influenced Lopez’s plans for the future. After graduation, she would like to return to the US to pursue a Master’s degree.