Jackie Garofano a 2011 Connecticut Woman of Innovation

  • Republished with permission of emagination, a School of Engineering electronic publication

Doctoral candidate Jacquelynn McGuinness Garofano was selected one of just 10 Connecticut Technology Council 2011 Women of Innovation award recipients feted during a gala event on March 31, 2011. (View Jackie’s ceremony remarks here.)

Jackie, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering (MSE), was presented the Collegian Innovation and Leadership award, which recognizes exceptional academic achievement or inventiveness in technology, science or engineering. She received dual, independent nominations from her thesis advisor, UConn MSE professor Mark Aindow, and Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) Physics professor Christine Broadbridge, who is the Education Director of the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP), a NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center located at Yale University. The dual nominations Jackie received reflect her exceptional performance in both research and education.

Jackie was among 56 outstanding Connecticut women who advanced to the finals.  UConn Engineering was well represented among the final candidates, who also included doctoral students Junxia Ma and Anurandha Kodali; M.S. student and practicing engineer Madeline Sola; and alumnae Elizabeth Peterson (’85), Teresa Cowles (’83), Jeanne Larsen (’83) and Carla Tillery (’93). The Women of Innovation awards are sponsored by the Connecticut Technology Council and recognize women in industry, academia and government who are innovators, role models and leaders in technology, science and engineering.  Exceptional high school and college students are also honored.

After earning her B.S. in Physics at SCSU, Jackie was interested in pursuing graduate studies but sought a more applications-oriented degree program.  During her years at SCSU, she was introduced to electron microscopy techniques and to materials science, an area that neatly bridges fundamental nano-scale science and practical applications.  She enrolled in UConn’s graduate program in MSE under the guidance of Dr. Aindow and has benefitted from the impressive array of microscopy and characterization equipment housed in the Institute of Materials Science at UConn.

Research Impact

For her master’s degree, Jackie investigated the characterization (using primarily transmission electron microscopy, TEM) of laser-processed nickel-based superalloys used for blades in gas turbine engines of aircraft.  According to Dr. Aindow, “The unusual geometry of the samples hampered characterization, so Jackie developed a series of strategies for extracting the necessary data from these samples by combining obsolete metallurgical extraction replication and state-of-the-art focused ion beam approaches. This led to a dramatically improved understanding of a particular structural characteristic in these technologically important components and to a novel technique for other researchers who are interested in such challenging component geometries.”

Jackie’s doctoral research involves advanced materials characterization of the microstructural changes that unfold within a new nanocomposite fabricated to display certain optical properties sought by the military. To retain their optical properties, the minute grains that make up this ultra-hard composite must remain stable in extreme field operating conditions.  Researchers have been hindered in studying the structural stability of the materials because it is immensely difficult to produce sufficiently thin samples for viewing using TEM. Dr. Aindow explained, “Jackie showed that by using a ceramic foam synthesis method, the nanocomposites could be produced in the form of flakes thin enough for direct examination in the microscope.”  Even after exposure to high temperatures, the flakes performed virtually the same as those in bulk samples.  Dr. Aindow believes the understanding gained from her observations will revolutionize the way people think about stability in these critical nanocomposite materials.

Outreach & Education

Jackie’s role as an outreach educator with the CRISP program arose from her years at SCSU, where Dr. Broadbridge had advised Jackie’s honors thesis.  When the CRISP Education and Outreach Coordinator position opened up in 2009, Dr. Broadbridge encouraged Jackie to apply.  She was offered the job and began working at CRISP part-time while continuing to pursue her Ph.D. part time here at UConn.

At CRISP, she organizes professional development workshops for educators, coordinates the NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) summer program, and assists with the program website.  The CRISP “Making Stuff” campaign is particularly popular.  She also organizes outreach activities targeting primarily underserved students in the New Haven schools. “In March, I organized a Family Science Event at Yale that attracted approximately 200 students and families! The event featured a public lecture by renowned CRISP researcher and Yale professor Dr. Udo Schwarz, demonstrations of a scanning probe microscope and hands-on demonstrations led by CRISP graduate students, post-docs and outreach volunteers.”

Jackie has been involved in various Laser Camps at Three Rivers Community College, including a junior version for middle school students. She finds that younger students quickly grasp materials science concepts once they understand that all physical things are “materials” with properties that can be studied, understood, created and applied – from iridescence and pigmentation to flexibility, heat resistance or reflectance.  She relies upon common items, such as a peacock feather, soap bubbles, and nail polish to explain concepts of iridescence, surface tension and thin films. “Students have no idea that materials are such a part of everyday life. There’s simply no linkage drawn between the subjects they learn in school and how we see things in engineering.”

At UConn, where Jackie has been actively involved in the Materials Research Society and Materials Advantage organizations, she has received numerous honors, among them the Outstanding Woman Scholar Academic Achievement Award (2009), presented by UConn’s Graduate School, the MSE program’s Outstanding Graduate Student award (2010) and induction into UConn’s Alpha Sigma Mu honor society (2010).

Dr. Aindow is deeply proud of Jackie’s academic accomplishments and expects she will continue to contribute enormously to the unfolding field of MSE in the years ahead.  He remarked, “Jackie is Connecticut born, bred and educated; she is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we retain the best students within the state and provide them with the opportunities to achieve their full potential.”

Jackie was thrilled to receive a job offer from the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) as a Materials Scientist in the Measurement Science group; she will start her new position in September 2011.

Published: April 11, 2011

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