By Marlese Lessing
The 2018 Materials Science and Technology (MS&T) Conference in Columbus, Ohio brought thousands of scientists and innovators from around the globe to celebrate and collaborate on the latest breakthroughs in materials science. Perhaps most excited of all were 10 UConn MSE undergraduates who attended the event both to represent UConn and to take part in the myriad of activities the conference offered. This included Kenna Ritter, Hetal Patel, Grace Quinlan, Iwona Wrobel, Michelle Such, Zach Putney, Joe Tracey, Jordan Gomes, Alex Perkins, and Justin Hewitt.
Senior Kenna Ritter, president of the UConn Materials Advantage chapter and member of the ASM International Student Board of Trustees, helped draft plans for the student board to provide more resources to MSE students who are part of ASM International. She also helped organize the 2018 Domesday Competition, which invited students from several prestigious universities to bring their best ‘dome’—a structure built to withstand compression. Points are also awarded for aesthetics, durability, design,and other criteria. UConn’s Justin Hewitt, Jordan Gomes, Iwona Wrobel and Zach Putney all took part with their polymer-based structure.
Joe Tracey and Hetal Patel competed in the Undergraduate Speaking Competition and the Poster Presentation Competition, respectively. These contests reward the presenter for the scientific content, public performance, and the author’s composition skills. The Keramos Ceramic Mug Drop, for which Alex Perkins and Grace Quinlan made (and sacrificed) ceramic mugs, tests ceramics skills by dropping lab-designed and crafted mugs from progressively greater heights. Until they break…
The Keramos Ceramic Frisbee Competition, however, is where UConn truly shone. Michelle Such’s midnight-dark frisbee won first place for the Aesthetics competition among all of the universities competing at this annual MSE conference. This was followed by the ceramic Frisbee toss, judged on a strange combination of resilience and aim, in which Zach Putney, among others, naturally competed since he’s also a member of UConn’s ultimate Frisbee club.
“UConn MS&E has a proud history of our students winning recognition at MS&T and other scientific conferences,” says department head Bryan Huey. “We are very pleased to cosponsor this annual undergraduate delegation, especially since the officers and members of Materials Advantage work so hard year-around with outreach, recruiting, programming, and social events. “
As one of the four major annual meetings for the MSE community worldwide, UConn’s undergraduate delegates also mingled with like-minded engineers, faculty, and students from all corners of the globe. Conferences like these enable engineers to learn how others tackle academic and real-world problems, network with each other, and gain leadership skills.
“Students were also able to attend normal conference proceedings and attend talks on a wide variety of materials topics,” Kenna said. “We were able to network with students from other colleges and universities at various social events that were held throughout the week.”
Says professor Huey: “To me, the best part of a conference is being reminded of just how broad, how important, and how interesting is the field of materials science. There is no shortage of challenges to solve, clever solutions, or career paths.”