Chemical Engineering Student Wants to Break Negative STEM Stereotypes

Dominique Whyte ’25 is also passionate about her research in sustainable energy and development.

Growing up in a small rural town in Jamaica, Dominique Whyte ’25 saw few examples of successful women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. But that didn't stop Whyte from following her own dream of coming to Manhattan College as a chemical engineering major who is passionate about sustainable energy and development.  Dominique Whyte

“Where I’m from, women are not typically in these fields,” Whyte said. “So to be in this position now, and to be succeeding, is like breaking barriers and stereotypes. I want to share this story with other women because I know they might be intimidated by being in a male-dominated field, and feel like they’re not good enough. If you have a dream, you should definitely pursue it.”  

For Whyte, that dream began in Mandeville, Jamaica, where her high school electrical and electronic technology teacher encouraged her to pursue engineering. At the time, she wanted to become a physician but her love for chemistry, mathematics and physics convinced her that engineering was the right career path to choose.   

Now a sophomore, Whyte has already immersed herself in several research projects, including one with the goal of finding ways to filter sulfur content from fuel. The research is funded by a $55,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.  

Whyte and her team prepare materials based on titanium dioxide and graphene oxide, decreasing the concentration of sulfur-containing compounds in simulated fuels. High sulfur levels in fuels can cause environmental problems such as the release of sulfur dioxide during fuel combustion in the engine, according to Alexandre Pinto, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Whyte’s research advisor.   

“Dominique has been working on this research since the summer of 2022, and during that time she has learned about and specialized in preparing graphene oxide and titanium dioxide by solution-based chemical methods,” PInto said. “She has also learned how to characterize these materials through analytical techniques such as X-ray diffraction and infrared spectroscopy.”  Dominique Whyte in Lab

In addition to her research, Whyte is looking forward to her upcoming summer internship with Air Products, a company that “provides essential industrial gasses, related equipment and applications expertise to customers.”  Whyte secured the internship through a Manhattan College STEM industry career fair last fall, after meeting with a representative from the company. She credits the College’s Center for Career Development with helping her prepare her resume, conducting practice interviews and giving her tips about how to navigate the interview process.  

Last year, she participated in the College’s Mentor Program, a program that matches students with professionals in their respective fields. Whyte’s mentor was Emily Elber ’21, an alumna who at the time was working as a process engineer with Corning Incorporated. Elber told Whyte about the many opportunities available to chemical engineers, recommended internships for her to pursue, and gave her insight into what it was like to work as a chemical engineer in the field. 

“Meeting with Emily gave me hope for the future,” Whyte said.  

In addition, Whyte has joined the Manhattan chapter of Girls Who Code, an organization that is committed to closing the gender gap in STEM-related fields. It’s an activity she enjoys immensely.  

In the next few years, Whyte would like to work on research that includes finding sustainable ways to utilize and manage biosolids from wastewater.  

“At Manhattan College there isn’t any bias based on gender,” she said. “So the same opportunities that are available to men are also available to women. It's an equal playing field at the school.”