Photo: Michelle Henry

The Magic of Chemistry

Passion leads this Renaissance woman to study chemical engineering.

In third grade, Lyssa Aruda received a Harry Potter potions kit. The gift thrilled her to no end. Science, especially chemistry, physics and math, had long fascinated her.

Today, Aruda studies chemical engineering at a sunnier version of Hogwarts, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Chemistry is kind of the closest you can get to magic,” Aruda said.

Chemistry is kind of the closest you can get to magic,” Aruda said.

Aruda plans to use her degree to create solutions in a fast-paced environment as a consultant in engineering technology. “I like seeing results immediately,” she said. “I want to help people and make them happy, to solve problems that I think are cool and exciting. I’m having fun while contributing something meaningful to the world.”

After completing a summer internship as a systems and business integration analyst at Accenture, where she focused on health and public service issues, Aruda now works in Associate Professor Andrea Hodge’s nanomaterials research lab. She said Hodge’s enthusiasm for the work is contagious. Another of her favorite professors is Andrea Armani, who makes complex material interesting by weaving humor into her lectures.

“Lyssa is the kind of student who inspires the faculty to be better teachers,” said Armani, Fluor Early Career Chair and associate professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. “She is actively engaged in class, frequently posing complex questions which combined multiple fields of engineering. Given all of her other activities, it truly speaks to her scholastic ability.”

A Weisen Scholarship student, Aruda is studying in a dual USC Viterbi program that will culminate in a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in May and a master’s in engineering management in December. With a 3.75 GPA and a minor in art history — she is partial to the Baroque and Renaissance periods — Aruda is an active member of Alpha Phi sorority, where she has served on the executive board; the campus chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, where she serves as an officer; the Order of Omega honor society, comprised of the top 3 percent of the Greek community, where she serves as president; the Viterbi Freshman Academy, where she mentors freshman engineering students; and the Viterbi Student Ambassador program, where she helps recruit new students.

A former high school cheerleader who earned the Girl Scout Gold Award (equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout ranking), Aruda also volunteers with the Girl Scouts at Compton Avenue Elementary School, where she helps organize projects and assists scouts in earning badges. She participates in USC Friends and Neighbors Days and has traveled to South Korea and Israel as a teacher’s assistant in USC Viterbi’s famed iPodia Program, meeting students from around the globe and teaming with them to present innovative projects.

Aruda wants to make the most of her college experience, so she compulsively fills her datebook with detailed to-do lists and believes that time management is her top skill. “I think the biggest challenge I face is prioritizing activities and finding the opportunities to do everything I love,” she said.