By Amanda Olavarria
Whether developing material characterization methods, evaluating material properties, or correlating material properties with processing parameters Alumna Katie Read (MSE BS ’11, MS ’17) is constantly putting her skills to the test as a Senior Engineer at Pratt & Whitney. She works on the development of new processing methods and standards, which include a range of sample sizes from lab-scale test coupons through full-scale development engine hardware.
Katie’s primary focus is the research and development of ceramic matrix composites (CMC’s), which facilitate higher operating temperatures for next-generation commercial and military gas turbine engines. Ultimately, these higher operating temperatures enable improved engine efficiency.
After attending a summer program at UConn called Engineering 2000, Katie became interested in pursuing materials science & engineering as a career. Engineering 2000 presented the many unique areas of engineering UConn has to offer. In the materials science and engineering portion of the seminar, Katie had the opportunity to make and test composite materials. “I was fascinated by the variation that could be achieved in the simple composites I made in this program,” Katie said recalling that introduction to materials science. This experience ultimately determined Katie’s career path developing advanced composite systems for aerospace.
As part of her participation in the Engineering 2000 program, Katie was able to utilize the UConn laboratory equipment and meet the MSE faculty. She was impressed with UConn’s excellent facilities and the many research opportunities for students. In addition, she liked that UConn’s large campus allowed her to become involved in a broad range of extracurricular activities.
As an undergraduate, Katie was widely involved with research, internships, and clubs. She furthered her knowledge in the field through the Material Advantage Chapter, ultimately as the chapter president for two years. She even became a student representative on the ASM International Board of Trustees. “As part of this experience I learned about how a professional society works and was able to network with many experienced professionals,” Katie said.
One of her favorite aspects of her undergraduate days was participating in undergraduate research. “I was able to gain some insight into graduate school, which often focuses on foundational material properties and behavior,” she explained. Katie completed both her undergraduate and graduate research with Professor Huey’s guidance, where he helped her develop technical writing skills and an analysis technique for ceramic fiber surface roughness. Professor Huey’s advice helped her determine her early career path. “Like so many of our undergraduates, Katie has a passion to learn, try, and do. Students like Katie, who commit their time to schoolwork, research, leadership, and yes some fun along the way too, position themselves well for that dream job or grad school after graduation,” Professor Huey said.
According to Katie, the most important thing students can do is take advantage of learning opportunities. “There is always something to learn from an experience, whether it is a new way to approach a challenge, a new perspective on a problem, details about a new characterization technique, or how to improve important career skills like communication and organization,” she explained. Katie believes students should go for opportunities that enable them to expand their knowledge even if that takes them down a different career path than what they originally imagined.