By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
Alumnus Haibo Yu has so many positive remarks about his time at UConn. He credits the excellent classes, meaningful research opportunities, supportive advisors and mentors, and life-long relationships made there for his pleasant experience. “All of these have created unforgettable and precious memories that I will carry along in my life wherever I go,” he says.
Yu’s interest in materials science and engineering started at the University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB) where he received his bachelor’s and master’s. He became amazed by the interdisciplinary characteristics of materials science and the striking structure-processing-performance-properties relationship of materials. “It was also in that period when I started to realize the significance and power of characterization techniques, particularly electron microscopy, for probing materials structures and properties. This unveiling of microscopic interactions is crucial to solving a host of problems for materials applications,” says Yu.
After his time at USTB, Yu decided that he wanted to further his education in MSE. “I wanted to study abroad and explore the field further, particularly electron microscopy characterization,” he said. “UConn was one of my top options, because it is one of the top public research universities in the United States. Most importantly, UConn hosts a stunning Materials Science and Engineering program covering state-of-the-art research in diverse areas of materials science, including Materials Characterization, Materials Synthesis & Processing, and Theory & Modeling.” Thus, Yu obtained his doctorate from UConn in 2017.
At UConn, Professor Mark Aindow served as an advisor and mentor to Yu. During his five years in the Ph.D. program, Yu claims that he learned something new from him every single day. “Professor Aindow not only taught me about what is important both personally and professionally, but also provided meaningful opportunities for growth,” he states. “Professor Aindow is a lifelong role model to me, and his mentorship has had an invaluable impact on my career success to date.”
Another role model that Yu had at UConn was Professor S. Pamir Alpay, who has been the interim Vice President for Research since February 2022. Yu went under his co-supervision for a project on advanced Electrical Circuit Breaker Contacts, funded by GE Industrial Solutions. “It was truly a pleasure working with Professor Alpay, from whom I learned a lot, and I was deeply impressed by his talent, creativity, energy and enthusiasm for life and science,” says Yu.
Post-graduation, Yu took a position at Honeywell UOP in Des Plaines, IL where he currently serves as a Senior Advanced R&D Engineer/Scientist. Honeywell UOP is an international supplier of process technology, products, engineered systems and technical services to the petroleum refining, petrochemical, gas processing and energy industries, and is a leader in the research and development of petroleum and petrochemical processing. “At UOP, I have great opportunities to work with expert colleagues on exciting research projects, and most importantly I can utilize my electron microscopy expertise to support the development of life-changing technologies and to solve metallurgical failure issues in commercial and industrial applications,” he says.
In his position, Yu uses advanced electron microscopy characterization techniques for metallurgical failure analyses. This helps to resolve failure/corrosion issues, including those associated with metals and alloys, and also for catalysts in an industrial petrochemical and refining related environment. Also, he leads corrosion coupon testing to determine appropriate alloys/plastics/coatings for materials being considered for groundbreaking processes/technologies in both modern petroleum refining/petrochemical solutions (e.g., catalytic dehydrogenation, alkylation, platforming) and sustainability technologies (e.g., renewable fuels, battery energy storage, carbon capture).
His research helps commercial customers in oil refining and other petrochemical industries to identify root causes and mechanisms of possible corrosion or mechanical failures during the service life of various plant equipment. “It is gratifying that my research studies can often not only identify the problem causes, but also direct the customers to alternative solutions to mitigate future risks and ensure continued safe plant operation,” Yu claims. “Also, my characterization research plays a part in the company’s sustainability technology development, especially in the areas of renewable fuels, battery storage and carbon capture, contributing to environmental protection with carbon neutrality for a more sustainable future.”
For students who are interested in pursuing a career in MSE, Yu has two pieces of advice. First, find your specific area of interest because it will keep you enthusiastic for your entire career. Second, overcome fears of failure. “Everyone has difficulties, discouragements, and even failures during any research project. It is always beneficial to face these hurtles with optimism and courage. This will greatly help you proceed with a bright future, not only in MSE, but also in life,” Yu wisely states.
Yu expresses his best wishes and heartfelt gratitude to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UConn. “I am very glad to see the continued growth of the MSE Department at UConn,” Yu says. “I feel happy for the current MSE students, as they could potentially have access to the premier Innovation Partnership Building center at UConn Tech Park and possess great opportunities to conduct exciting research that is changing the future of materials science. I sincerely wish UConn MSE students joy and success in their futures like I’ve enjoyed.”