By Marlese Lessing
The Department of Materials Science and Engineering enjoyed an evening of food, science jokes, celebration, reflection, and mingling at the sixth annual MSE Banquet in April. Held at the UConn Alumni Center, attendees included undergraduates, graduates, professors, administrators and alumni from Lockheed Martin, M Cubed Technologies, and more.
Organized by UConn Materials Advantage (UCMA) president Kenna Ritter for three years running, and presented by UCMA Social Chair Amanda Agui, this year’s banquet was a smashing success, combining a professional atmosphere with fun activities and light-hearted chatter from attendees and speakers alike.
“The goal this year was to involve more engagement and mingling,” said Amanda, who incorporated several science puns into her opening speech. “I want to make this night positive and light-hearted.”
To do this, the tables, which were named after periodic elements such as cesium, cobalt, and nickel, were seated with a mix of graduate students, professors, alumni, and undergraduates.
“We try and make it a nice event,” Kenna said. “We want to make it conversational and inviting.”
Before the dinner line was opened, the order of each table was determined in a team “Race-to-Taste” competition, which involved each table working as a team to answer questions about engineering, physics, and science. The winners were invited to line up first for their food.
While the activities offered a sense of fun, the banquet was also a time for celebrating and reflecting on the accomplishments of the MSE department over the past year.
Department Head Professor Bryan Huey highlighted the recent accomplishments of MSE’s faculty, such as Dr. Lesley Frame’s Heat Treat Award, Dr. Avinash Dongare being named UTC Professor in Engineering Innovation, and Dr. Seok-Woo Lee’s award for teaching excellence. Professor Huey also commented on the bright future of the MSE department, especially with UConn’s new Science1 complex providing future opportunities as MSE and the IMS continue to expand.
The event was also attended by special guest Dr. Diana Lados, a distinguished professor in mechanical engineering at Worchester Polytechnic Institute and Vice President for the Alpha Sigma Mu International Professional Honor Society. Diana helped Professor Hal Brody celebrate the induction of over a dozen new graduate and undergraduate members into this prestigious group.
Undergraduate students and graduate students were also honored and recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. Associate Department Head Dr. George Rossetti presented awards acknowledging outstanding contributions by graduate students in research, teaching and leadership activities.
“As an instructor for several of the core MSE graduate courses, I have the opportunity to interact with most graduate students as they first enter our program,” Rossetti said. “When evaluating and selecting candidates for awards, I am consistently impressed by the scope and strength of their research accomplishments and professional achievements during the course of their graduate studies.”
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education & Diversity Dr. Daniel Burkey, who also attended, said seeing the accomplishments of the MSE department has been exciting.
“It’s gratifying to celebrate what students are doing,” Burkey said. “It’s been great to work with the MSE department. It’s not a department many people know about, but UCMA is wonderful about informing our freshmen about it.”
The evening ended with a classic materials science and UCMA demonstration: freezing marshmallows in liquid nitrogen for a special frozen treat as attendees left the Alumni Center.
Alumna Alexandra Merkouriou, who is a member of MSE’s advisory board, founded the banquet in 2014. She noted how it is gratifying to see the event grow and expand over the past several years.
“I’m really proud of where it’s come,” Alexandra said. “I hope it continues years into the future.”