A Look into the Life of the 2023 IPOEF Inspiration Award Winner

By Alec Arbia, Written Communications Assistant

photo of Audrey Larson, MSE undergrad, at the NASA Space Center in Housten, TX for her co-op.

Audrey Larson, MSE undergrad, at the NASA Space Center in Housten, TX for her co-op.

When Audrey Larson was sixteen years old, she received her first patent for a system that helped reduce carbon emissions from cars on highways. At seventeen years old, she received her second patent – this one for a bullet proof barrier to help protect students during the event of a school shooting.

In high school, Audrey started the Inventors Club through the CT Invention Convention. “It was a response to COVID-19,” she explained. “During the pandemic student inventors around the state who would normally work on their inventions in school lost the ability to do so. The Inventor’s Club was an afterschool opportunity for those students to connect virtually and work on their inventions together.”

At UConn, Audrey is an undergraduate who is double-majoring in materials science and engineering (MSE) and civil engineering. “My reasoning for choosing MSE stems from my interest in engineering, which started with participation in the CT Invention Convention program. This program introduced me to the career of engineering while I was in elementary school, and it was then that I realized I wanted to be an engineer. My specific interest in MSE came in high school when I did the Explore Engineering (E2) summer camp at UConn which allowed me to learn about different engineering majors. Up until that point in my life I had no idea MSE even existed, and it was after this that I knew MSE was for me. It blends my love of engineering with chemistry and allows me to be interdisciplinary.”

UConn’s research opportunities are a large part of why Audrey chose to attend. “I knew UConn is an R1 university and I really loved the idea of doing research while in school. This hope ended up coming true, as I began to do research the summer before my freshman year – before I was even a husky!”

Audrey is most interested in additive manufacturing (3D printing) and how materials science plays into that field. Her favorite class so far has been Professor Rainer Hebert’s thermodynamics class. “The course material was so fun, and he used real world examples to explain the concepts, which made it much easier to grasp.”

It was in Audrey’s dorm room freshman year that she started her first of two companies – Unfolded and Geomate. “Unfolded was formed to give student artists a platform. Through the company we sell sustainable shirts and jewelry that have the designs of myself, my business partner, and other UConn students who we contract out to create designs. Geomate is an earlier stage venture that was founded out of the UConn Student Health and Wellness program, Innovate Wellness. Geomate is an app that is made to help students feel safer when they are walking alone at night on campus.”

Last year Audrey was the 2023 recipient of the IPO Education Foundation (IPOEF) Inspiration Award, which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution by promoting and championing intellectual property rights for, and on behalf of, members of underrepresented communities. “I was absolutely honored to earn the award from IPOEF for my work in intellectual property (IP). I have always tried to support others in their pursuit of IP and to help make way for other students like me who are interested in protecting their IP. Through the CT Invention Convention and the years I worked with them, I have developed a love for inventing and for meeting and working with other student inventors like myself.”

Department Head Bryan Huey notes: “Audrey’s passion about materials, and entrepreneurial successes, are clearly extraordinary. They’re also representative of a consistent theme among our majors, alumni, and faculty, since we are continually discovering new materials to improve engineered designs that impact our everyday lives. In fact, at that same IPOEF awards ceremony, Professor Cato Laurencin was recognized as their inventor of the year!”

Audrey has an upcoming co-op with NASA. “A co-op is a longer-term internship, usually lasting a semester, where you get to work for a company or national lab before graduation. Co-ops can help you figure out what you love and what you are passionate about. I have always loved space and dreamt of working for NASA as a kid. Since freshman year I have been looking at and applying to various internships at NASA with no luck. This year I got my first interview, which led me to spending my spring 2024 semester in Houston, TX working for NASA at the Johnson Space Center. I am so excited about this opportunity. I am such a nerd about space, and NASA has always been something that interests me. I am most excited to meet my coworkers, and maybe some astronauts!”

When asked how UConn’s MSE department has helped her work towards her career goals, Audrey said, “UConn MSE continues to have a curriculum that lets its students explore all areas of MSE, from biomaterials to energy. This has helped me pinpoint my interests in a positive way. The MSE environment here is very tight knit, and I know I can always rely on my classmates!”

Published: February 22, 2024

Categories: awards, internship, NASA, news, patent, undergraduate students

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