Student Profile

Duncan Mullins

PhD, Engineering Education

Duncan Mullins.
“When I heard about the debut engineering education PhD program, I knew that was what I wanted to pursue. The more I discover about engineering education, the more I love it, and the more I'm thriving within it. ”
Duncan Mullins, Graduate Student
Engineering Education

Tell me about yourself. 

I am 27 years old completing my PhD in the inaugural cohort of UB’s Engineering Education program. Although I am originally from the south, I love it here socially, culturally, and temperature-wise—I will happily trade six inches of snow for never having a day over 90 degrees. 

I would describe myself as an avid nerd. During my free time, I love to read fantasy novels, play Dungeons and Dragons virtually with my friends, and play RPG video games like Baldur’s Gate.

What started your path to becoming an engineer?

My engineering path started with honestly the stereotypical answer, where I was always good at math and science. Once a mentor recommended the chemical engineering program at Oklahoma State University (OSU), I enrolled and absolutely loved the program, especially the synthesis and discovery side. 

While I liked what I did, the available career options were very petroleum-focused and I wasn’t too eager to work in oil and gas. In April of my senior year, I didn’t have a clue what my future held. However, I was offered a lab position to work with my mentor, professor Ashley Ford Versypt. The opportunity to enroll in graduate school was honestly unexpected. I like to say I've tripped my way into every opportunity I've had and just been insightful enough to realize on the way down that this is not a fall, but rather a leap and sort of embrace that potential.

What are you involved in on and off campus?

On campus, I am one of the few STEM communication specialist writing consultants at the Center for Excellence in Writing. I also love to simply walk around in the great weather, stopping by the Commons to grab a bite at the Poke Bowl shop. 

Outside of UB, I am a consultant for Buffalo Manufacturing Works with EWI. As their education and outreach arm, I develop and run an after-school robotics program for high schoolers.

What are some things you are passionate about?

I am passionate about student learning and mentoring. My greatest joy is helping someone see the potential that I see within them and fostering that capacity for success, whatever the definition of success may be for them. I also love interacting with people and getting to know them on a personal level. 

Chemistry is also another one of my areas of passion. Many people, engineers, in fact, are traumatized by chemistry but I like showing them how fun it can be. The subject has a very structural solution process, especially when it comes to stuff like balancing chemical equations where it takes the best parts of accounting, algebra, and basic mathematics and puts them in a very well-bounded problem.

What advice would you give to prospective students considering engineering?

My advice would be to go for it. Try it out. At the end of the day, it’s your decision whether you’re a good fit. Engineering is a rigorous field that deals with some delicate topics and requires a level of academic awareness, but if you’re up for the task, definitely explore your options. It’s a field filled with discovery and opportunity that challenges your problem-solving abilities in an open-minded environment.

What are your future plans?

After finishing my PhD, I want to be a teaching faculty with a focus on educating undergraduates in chemistry or engineering. I would particularly love to teach general chemistry because I think that is an area of missed opportunity for many engineers. 

In terms of where I want to teach, it does not matter as much as what I am doing—I’d just like to teach 85 percent of my professional time. However, teaching in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest would be nice. The prospect of working abroad in Scandinavia or Oceania is something I have explored, considering engineering is conceptually similar globally.