‘Model’ student Ricardo García Cárcamo takes a different path than most

June 6, 2022

You might call Ricardo García Cárcamo of Clemson University a “model” student.

Not only is Ricardo good at what he does, but he also works exclusively with computer models.

Ricardo is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Dr. Rachel Getman, the Murdoch Family Endowed Associate Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The students in her lab specialize in creating sophisticated models of chemical reactions to lay the groundwork for more efficient, more effective and less expensive catalysts.

While the Hollywood idea of research may involve test tubes and bubbling chemicals, the students in Dr. Getman’s lab do all their work on computers. Ricardo focuses on how water influences catalytic reactions.

“It’s kind of different,” he said. “Most researchers are experimentalists, and they have a lab. My office is my lab.”

Ricardo received his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from El Salvador’s Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas.

He started his career as a chemical engineer at a sugar factory. While working there, a friend who had received a Ph.D. from Clemson and had returned to El Salvador told Ricardo he would be a good fit for the chemical and biomolecular engineering Ph.D. program at Clemson.

Ricardo is now nearly three years into the program. He said his experience has changed how he approaches research, helping him see the big picture.

Dr. Getman has taught him to focus his ideas, follow a research plan and teach.

“She is passionate about students,” Ricardo said. “She tries to adapt herself to every student’s style.”

His proudest moment as a Tiger so far was passing his oral qualifier, an exam doctoral students take to determine if they are prepared for a Ph.D. program.

The Getman lab, he said, is a supportive environment.

“We are all in the lab most of the time, so we can chat, and we can help each other,” Ricardo said. “We stick together for a good part of the day.”

Ricardo is on track to graduate in about two years. He said he liked the fast pace of industry but is open to other opportunities.