By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
MSE Alumnus Junfei Weng credits his time at UConn to his success at the international company, Umicore. This company focuses on catalysis, energy & surface technologies and recycling across the world. “In automotive catalysts, Umicore provides customers with technologies and products in emission control catalysts, mostly for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles and for all fuel types,” says Weng. “I regularly apply what I learned about catalysts during my Ph.D. studies. My contributions sometimes seem small, but they make important contributions to the business and our customers.”
At Umicore, Weng is a North America Diesel Product Application Manager. In this position, he mainly works on customer support, technical discussions, and internal research and development of diesel aftertreatment accelerated aging cycle (DAAAC) protocols. In the automotive industry, the DAAAC protocol is a diesel aftertreatment accelerated aging procedure that results in catalytic system deterioration similar to that observed in field-aged components. The procedures that were developed aimed to shorten durability testing times dramatically, with a reduction in durability testing time goal of ≥ 90%. It also saves the cost of time, fuel consumption, labors, etc. “My responsibility in Umicore is to understand how we could better systematically and statistically represent the real-world aging in a laboratory environment from the perspective of catalyst deterioration,” he says.
Weng first came to UConn after receiving his Bachelor of Engineering and Masters of Engineering in materials science and engineering at Beihang University. “I was eager to apply for a Ph.D. degree abroad after my Master’s program in China. UConn MSE faculty had received numerous awards for their excellence in research, publications, innovations and education. The strength of the IMS, especially its multidisciplinary focus, was also important to me,” states Weng. “In addition, I had heard from other UConn students about the beautiful campus, the convenient infrastructures, and the friendly culture here. Also, I was thrilled to learn that all full time PhD students at MSE are offered full funding to conduct their studies, research, teaching and outreach responsibilities.”
At UConn, Professor Pu-Xian Gao provided Weng with invaluable mentorship as his major advisor. “He always encouraged me to approach questions from multiple perspectives, and to innovate. This helped me strengthen my “scientific” thinking patterns that I regularly used for my research and nowadays my career,” Weng says. “In addition, I appreciate the power of ‘putting your feet on the ground’ that Professor Gao always mentioned. No matter how innovative an ‘idea’ is, we still need to start from reviewing the literature, conduct careful testing, and finally demonstrate feasibility.”
“I greatly appreciate his kindness, genuine care, and strong support for me when I had to face both academic and life challenges,” Weng states. “He helped me build confidence, diligence, and enthusiasm. It was a great pleasure and honor working with him as his student.”
For students who are pursuing a career in materials science and engineering, Weng has five pieces of valuable advice. First, be curious about the materials themselves. Consider every aspect: the structure, synthesis, characterization, performance, and deactivation. Second, a comprehensive literature review is always helpful. Third, present your research with different audiences to improve presentation skills and receive feedback. Fourth, apply your solid foundation of materials knowledge, and get well trained on the experimental operation and setup. Lastly, seek opportunities in industry to bridge the gap between academic research and real-world innovation.