Forestry doctoral student finds niche in academia, research and mentoring
Ph.D. candidate Christián Henry enjoys mentoring youth and researching sustainable bioproducts.
Undergraduate research experiences led Christián Henry to the forestry program at Michigan State University. Through the MSU Department of Forestry, students learn to be leaders through multi-disciplinary coursework, field studies, cutting edge technology and mentorship from respected faculty in one of the longest-standing forestry programs in the United States.
“I always wanted to be a medical doctor, but I started a research position as an undergrad at Mississippi State University, then interned with the foreign agricultural service while participating in the Demmers Scholars Program led by Mark Rey,” she said. “These experiences opened my eyes to academia, research and eventually led me to pursuing my Ph.D.”
Christián Henry is a doctoral student in the Department of Forestry. Her research is focused on sustainable bioproducts and the development and application of lignin-based polyurethane foams for industrial applications to create new opportunities for the forestry industry. Henry earned her bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering technology and business in 2016 from Mississippi State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher on lignin-based phenolic adhesives. She was part of a team that created the first phenol-formaldehyde adhesive that replaced 100% of phenol with lignin.
Deeply passionate about mentoring young people, Henry has been active locally and nationally in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). Currently, she serves as graduate student vice president for the national MANRRS organization and previously served as national graduate student parliamentarian. She has received numerous grants and accolades, including an academic achievement graduate assistantship, a Farm Credit VIP Scholar award and has been recognized for leadership activities by MSU’s Council of Graduate Students (COGS) with the COGS Disciplinary Leadership Award.
Henry is one of the 2021 CANR Alumni Association Scholarship recipients.
Name: Christián Henry
Hometown: Sulligent, Alabama
Expected graduation date: May 2022
Research focus: Sustainable bioproducts. Lignin-based rigid polyurethane foams.
What inspired your interest in your advanced degree area? I always wanted to be a medical doctor, but I started a research position as an undergrad at Mississippi State University, then interned with the foreign agricultural service while participating in the Demmers Scholars program led by Mark Rey. These experiences opened my eyes to academia, research and eventually led me to pursuing my Ph.D.
Why did you choose to study at MSU? The principal investigator (PI) on the research project I was a part of took a job at MSU from Mississippi State University. I had the option of staying in Mississippi or moving to Michigan and working with my PI. I chose Michigan for a new experience and to diversify my educational portfolio.
What has been one of your best experiences within graduate school so far? Definitely my work with MANRRS. When I first got to Michigan, they were the first organization I reached out to. I would not have made it this far in my program without our wonderful advisors (Dr. Eunice Foster, Phillip Seaborn and Stephanie Chau) along with some amazing members who have become my best friends. We participate in Michigan Family Farms each year and from planning to execution, it’s always a great time.
Any thoughts or advice for current or new students? Find your tribe, go to office hours and send summary emails after every meeting.
What are your future plans? I am currently looking for jobs and will be presenting some of my research at the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) Conference in October. I plan to defend my thesis in spring 2022 and upon graduation, I hope to have a job where I can blend my mentorship, research and sustainability passions. My longer-term goals include getting married, having children and traveling to every continent.