By Ben Crnic
For sophomore Elise Bessette, materials science was always intertwined with her hobbies and interests. Being passionate about 3-D printing, Bessette was already familiar with various materials exhibiting different properties. She became fascinated with learning more about why they behaved the way they did, leading her to MSE.
“I don’t think it was any single material that got me interested in MSE. Rather, it was the breadth of materials that grabbed my attention,” Bessette said. Polylactic acid (PLA) is commonly used with 3-D printing because it can be annealed to increase part strength due to its somewhat crystalline nature. Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), on the other hand, is sensitive to temperature changes and produces fumes during the printing process.
Learning about MSE also aided Bessette with her robotics team experience while in high school. She was fortunate enough to take some UConn engineering classes at the Storrs campus during this time, giving her some knowledge about plastics which she applied to the robots developed by her team. In particular, she advocated for the use of polycarbonate instead of aluminum for a certain assembly due to its availability, price, and desirable properties. This assembly ended up lasting the entire competitive season. From this experience, Bessette knew she had a passion for studying materials.
Now an MSE undergraduate at UConn, Bessette works in the lab of her advisor, Assistant Professor Lesley Frame. She helps with projects focusing on failure analysis and process improvements, many in connection with the Industry Affiliates Program (IAP) which is run by the Institute of Materials Science. The IAP assists regional industry with short-term materials-related research and production projects, especially providing tools and expertise which companies may not have. She is also enjoying her MSE classes–her favorite this Spring was “Introduction to Structure, Properties, and Processing of Materials II (MSE 2002)” taught by Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies Serge Nakhmanson.
“The lectures are always good, and the homework always helps to reinforce the course content. It is also structured so that you have to go and find out further details for yourself,” Bessette said. Of course from the faculty’s perspective, that’s a key part of being an engineer—utilizing what you’ve learned, discovering and applying more, and then assimilating it to achieve a goal.
As for what comes next, Bessette wants to return to her initial passion for materials and begin researching 3-D printing.
“It is a big hope of mine to be able to work with 3-D printing in the future. While it’s rewarding doing it as a hobby, I would love to be able to advance the science and applications of this rapidly evolving field,” Bessette said. She encourages other MSE students to contact faculty about research regarding their interests.
“If you see an opportunity for research in your email that sounds interesting, reply! There are plenty of professors who are looking for undergraduate students to assist in research,” Bessette said.