By Amanda Olavarria
Originally, Junior and honors student Kenna Ritter came to UConn undecided about her major before ultimately choosing MSE. She vaguely knew she wanted to be an engineer or at least in the STEM field, but was unsure about what exactly she wanted to do.
After researching the different engineering programs UConn has to offer, Kenna was attracted to the MSE program and found the topic of materials science to be interesting. Talking to her cousin, who was already a materials science major, was especially convincing.
Kenna is currently working in a metallurgy lab with Associate Professor Rainer Hebert. In the lab, she makes the alloy samples by combining the appropriate amounts of the constituent metals in an arc-melter. After alloying the metals, Kenna suction casts the sample to simulate the 3D printing environment.
The goal for her research was to examine aluminum alloys for potential uses in additive manufacturing. She plans to do characterization with optical microscopy and SEM in order to examine the microstructure of these potential alloys. In addition, she wants to find the secondary dendrite arm spacing and correlate that with the cooling rate.
Not only is Kenna very involved in the lab, but she also is the president of the UConn Material Advantage Student Chapter (UCMA), which is a professional organization for MSE students. UCMA focuses on providing career development activities and also leads many outreach events. This group has had a big impact on Kenna’s experience in MSE and she has played a very active role in the student chapter, from being secretary last year to now serving as president.
Kenna has many plans for the student chapter as the year goes on. On a professional development level she is leading UCMA in planning activities like resumé building, interview preparation, conference trips and industry tours. Additionally, she wants UCMA to continue with outreach programs at the high school level in order to raise awareness of materials science as a field of study.
One aspect of the MSE Department Kenna values the most is its close-knit community, which allows one to maintain close connections with both students and faculty. She finds many of the MSE professors to be very open and receptive, especially when it comes to answering student questions. Kenna claims that these professors have been extremely helpful in her learning experience.
She specifically mentions Adjunct Professor Goberman’s class as having a great influence on her academic experience. His charismatic nature not only got students involved in the subject, but also validated Kenna’s choice to major in MSE.
After interning at Pratt & Whitney over the summer and enjoying the work she did there, Kenna hopes to work within the field of aerospace in the future. As for now, Kenna is looking forward to further education, research and advancing the UConn Material Advantage Student Chapter.