Pitt Chemical Engineering Student Empowers Young Scientists

Issue Date: 
February 6, 2012
Brittany ChambersBrittany Chambers

More than once, University of Pittsburgh junior Brittany Chambers has been called a “motivator.” Academically, she challenges high school students from underrepresented populations by tutoring them in engineering, math, and science through her involvement with Pitt’s EXCEL and INVESTING NOW programs.

Spiritually, she ministers on and off campus through the Pitt chapter of Anointed Steps of Faith, a Christian step team.

Personally, she engages young people in harnessing the power of their own education, something she has done since high school.

“In the beginning, there wasn’t a sense of urgency toward education in the students I tutored,” Chambers says.

“I’m working toward making sure they don’t miss out on opportunities just because they don’t know about them. That’s why I teach.”

Chambers came to Pitt on an engineering scholarship in 2008, immersing herself in the Swanson School of Engineering’s opportunities. Through EXCEL and INVESTING NOW, both of which help to educate underserved youth in the sciences, she has been able to add the role of tutor to her résumé. Thinking back to her own mentor at Penn Hills Senior High School—a teacher who taught her Honors and Advanced Placement Chemistry— Chambers says she has gravitated toward the challenges offered in tutoring. Twice a week, she meets with students for two hours to teach chemistry.

Chambers says she feels honored to be a tutor in INVESTING NOW—an organization whose Web site says that its students have a 99 percent success rate in enrolling in college and that 52 percent choose majors in science, engineering, and math. Seeking to emulate her own mentor, Chambers says she tries to spark an unquenchable interest in education in the students she tutors.

“I was lucky that I had people to help me navigate my education,” says Chambers. “My parents and high school teachers were instrumental in getting me to this place. Not every child has that, so I hope to be that person for these students.”

A high school experience with The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh presented Chambers with another navigation tool. Through a career-shadowing opportunity offered by the league, she visited Bayer Corporation to better understand how medicines are produced and administered. That day in the laboratory changed Chambers’ life: She realized how much she enjoyed watching the process of ensuring that the compounds were manufactured to meet coded standards.

Throughout high school, Chambers says she visited the University’s Pittsburgh campus through Urban League-sponsored events. When it came time to choose a college, Chambers, who was in the top tier of her high school class, selected Pitt because of its “home-like environment.” She says she visited so often that the University felt like a safe haven where she could learn, motivate others, and open herself up to a new academic journey.

“Pitt gives you a unique sense of family that I’m not sure exists elsewhere,” Chambers comments. “As soon as I opened myself up, I began noticing how many people were rooting for me. I have a handful of advisors whom I can look to for guidance at any given time.”

Chambers credits the Pitt chapter of The Anointed Steps of Faith team for helping her to get more involved in student life. The troupe practices once a week and performs routinely on campus and in the Pittsburgh community. Most often, the members are asked to dance at churches around Pittsburgh. Chambers says she enjoys the opportunity to minister in a different motivating way and hopes to capture the attention of young people.

Chambers is also a member of the Pitt chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and she plans to attend the organization’s 38th annual convention, which will be held in Pittsburgh March 28 through April 1.

Chambers says her fellow students provide a high level of comfort for her on campus. People associated with Pitt are moved to do “big things,” she says, and she hopes to be among their ranks. Chambers can’t pinpoint just one direction for her future right now. With her field of chemical engineering, there are numerous opportunities: She’s considering graduate school, working in her field, or teaching. Eventually, she says, she hopes to have done all three.

Inspired to achieve from an early age, Chambers gives credit to her father, an electrical engineer, who provided ample proof that many opportunities exist within engineering. Her mother, meanwhile, “instilled in me a sense of focus for which I am so grateful.” Now Chambers has the important task of mentoring her two younger sisters, both in high school, who are also interested in the sciences. With her experience over the past two years, she is more than up to the challenge.