Nikolina Cejic

Master Student

landscape picture of Nikolina Cejic and her parents.

Nikolina Cejic (middle) pictured with her father (left), her mother (right), and German shepherd Seve in front of the University at Buffalo sign.

From Rural Serbia to Chemical Engineering: A First-Generation Trailblazer's Journey to Success

headshot of nikolina cejic.

Growing up in a small village in rural Serbia with a population of fewer than 2,000 people, the notion of attending college never crossed my mind. It wasn't until I moved to the United States and embarked on the challenging journey of learning English that I discovered my unwavering passion for math and science, particularly chemistry. This steadfast interest led me to choose chemical engineering as my major at UB during my undergraduate years. The CBE department's commitment to challenging its students is what fostered my growth as a critical thinker and problem solver. Fueled by my love for hands-on work, exemplified by my experiences in the research lab, I decided to pursue higher education and earned my master's degree. After earning my master's degree, I plan on continuing onto the PhD program to become the first doctor in my family. 

Navigating the complexities of being a first-generation female student in engineering, I often found myself uncertain about the next steps in my life and career. To explore my interests and identify my unique path, I engaged in a diverse range of campus activities. These included participation in the Honors College, serving as a residential advisor on the on-campus dormitories, conducting undergraduate research, leading a ChemE car design team as a technical director for AIChE, becoming a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Student Ambassador for SEAS, working as a media student assistant for CBE, and actively engaging in various social clubs within the UB Student Association.  Through these engagements, I not only formed lasting friendships but also found invaluable mentors. I am particularly grateful to my principal investigator, Dr. Marina Tsianou, for her unwavering dedication and consistent support towards my success both during my undergraduate and graduate time here at UB. 

For those contemplating a journey into engineering, my best advice is to acknowledge the inherent challenges and embrace them with genuine affection. Learning to love the demanding nature of the field is key. Successfully navigating through each obstacle with a smile on your face is the recipe for long-term success.