By Allison McLellan
Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, leaping from the tallest bungy jump in the southern hemisphere, and playing with monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest—MSE student Greg Gagne had an interesting Spring semester.
Gagne is an undergraduate student who has been part of the Materials Sciences and Engineering Department under Dr. Bryan Huey’s guidance since his freshman year. Based on the strong materials program, placid beach community, and rave reviews from several friends, Gagne decided to venture abroad to the University of Wollongong in Australia (UoW). The senior returned this past July from his five-month stay.
Courses Gagne had taken at UoW helped him to continue his education in materials sciences and engineering, such as researching oxide dispersion strengthened steels, while also learning about Australian values, issues, history and indigenous people. A biogeography course allowed him to take studies outside of the classroom to ecosystems of the area. There, Gagne engaged in new work with vegetation plots and modeling currents to show species distribution.
Outside of schoolwork, Greg found his home-away-from-home in the college of Weerona. “Most of my friends were experiencing the University and the city for the first time along with myself. I played ultimate Frisbee with the club at UoW once or twice, but I mostly spent time with people from Weerona. There were events every week and the college acted as a sort of family – we were nearly self-contained and I never felt that I needed more than my Weerona family.”
But Greg’s favorite part of his abroad experience was the traveling. The engineering student was able to journey to Cairns, Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise, Melbourne, New Zealand, and Bali.
His advisor, Professor Huey, notes, “Greg is an excellent example of the fantastic opportunities available to our undergraduates when they work hard and plan ahead. It’s never easy for students to take a semester or even year-long break from their home department (and continent!). But speaking from personal experience, it can be life changing, not only by expanding your horizons and networks, but also to show you new ways in which your work can make an impact in the world. For instance, I’m especially pleased for Greg that he was able to mix engineering classes with topics of particular local importance, like ecosystems and species diversity. Homework based on beach trips sounds like a great way to spend some of your tuition too…”
For his final year at UConn, Greg is occupied with his senior design project working with Rockbestos Surprenant Cable Company, located in Connecticut. With this project, the senior will still find time to play on intramural teams and climb with the UConn climbing team. After graduation, his ideal goal is to find a job out west, continuing his passion for traveling.