By Amanda Song
MSE undergraduate Michelle Such is searching for ways to create aircraft parts more efficiently using 3D printing. Since 3D printing has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry, Michelle’s research is right on the money. But exploring new ways to use additive manufacturing for aerospace parts also enables engineers to create custom aircraft parts faster and more cost-effective than before. Ultimately, this allows for lighter aircraft with reduced carbon emissions, and helps speed repairs for older aircraft. Below, Michelle explains how MSE guided her toward this career path.
What first attracted you to the UConn MSE program?
The welcoming faculty attracted me to the MSE department. The professors and lab staff welcome students and encourage us to learn, do research, and find what interests us most in the MSE department. I chose to study Materials Science and Engineering because there are many different career opportunities and industries one can go into with this degree. One acquires a wide range of scientific skills that will help you grow as an engineer.
How did research help you find a specific interest within MSE?
Casting has really caught my interest in the Materials Science Department. Professor Harold Brody provided his expert advice on the subject during my independent study project and I gained a wealth of knowledge in his alloy casting course (MSE 4038).
During 2018, I conducted research under the advisement of Dr. Harold Brody and Adam Wentworth. I researched additive manufacturing technology, capabilities, and limitations, focused on applications in the local aerospace industry with a case study and hands-on experience with FDM 3D printing. Additionally, I researched the investment casting process including: work piece preparation, investment mix processing, mold design, casting defects, microstructure, surface finish, and post processing techniques.
How did your experience as an MSE undergrad student prepare you for industry?
As an MSE undergraduate student, we complete a great deal of hands-on projects in the Materials Laboratory. These projects assist with student learning because we work in teams to solve complex engineering problems. For me personally, these projects and the MSE department as a whole have helped me to excel as an engineer, making my undergraduate experience challenging but exciting.
Parts for airplanes have been investment cast for many years. However, some companies are now researching ways to additively manufacture parts to obtain them with feasible geometries.
What are your career goals, and how has UConn MSE helped you achieve them?
After graduating in May 2020, I will be going into industry to be exposed to Materials Science and Engineering in a different environment. Ideally, I would prefer to go into the aerospace industry since my independent study research is heavily used in this industry. I plan on getting a Master’s Degree part-time while working in industry full-time. The MSE department has helped me gain experience in multiple areas of Materials Science while being placed in challenging situations.
How else have you been involved in the community?
Earlier this year, I was inducted into the Materials Science and Engineering Honors Society, Alpha Sigma Mu. I am Vice President of Alpha Sigma Mu and I am a member of Materials Advantage (UCMA). For volunteer work, I am The Major Experience (TME) Mentor for MSE which involves actively answering undecided students’ questions about MSE and advise if the major will be a good fit for them. I have also volunteered for YESS (Young Engineering Science Scholars) and the Explore Engineering Programs, where I presented to high-schoolers about 3D printing and investment casting, instructed and supervised them in the Materials Laboratory, and gave presentations on material classes and applications.
How was your overall experience as an MSE undergraduate?
The UConn MSE department strongly promotes student learning. Professors are always eager to answer student’s questions and frequently hold office hours for students to go for extra help. The MSE faculty are truly motivated to help students learn and want to see everyone succeed.