By Amanda Olavarria
For undergraduate student Mariel Colby, studying MSE means increasing her career opportunities. Unlike other engineering programs where students are limited to a handful of prospective jobs, MSE offers a variety of specialties to cater to each individual’s unique career goals.
Although Mariel is still exploring the field of materials science to refine her interests, she is fond of the relationship between structure and properties in metals. “Small changes in microstructures can have large effects on material properties,” she claimed. Mariel especially enjoys relating a measured property to a microstructure and then hypothesizing a relationship.
Another area of materials science Mariel finds fascinating is nanoindentation. In Assistant Professor Lee’s lab, she is currently studying the nanoindentation of ScF3, which is a material with a negative coefficient of thermal expansion. This means the material shrinks when heated, instead of expanding like most materials do.
Nanoindentation tests for material properties; such as hardness by indenting a material with a small tip. In this way the material behavior can be studied locally. Microscopy is often done as well to see how the material behaved during indention. Not only does this research interest Mariel, but it also provides her with valuable technical lab experience.
Her efforts in the lab do not go unnoticed. Technical Lab Associate, Adam Wentworth and her advisor, Dr. Seok-Woo Lee praised Mariel for her hard work. “Mariel is a wonderful student who brings an indescribable energy to the lab. She always puts forth her best effort and gets the job done,” Adam claimed. In addition, Assistant Professor Lee stated, “Mariel is one of the most enthusiastic MSE undergraduate students I have ever seen. She is certainly a bright, young materials scientist.”
Research is not the only aspect of MSE that has had a profound impact on Mariel. MSE’s learning environment, which centers on teamwork, helped her learn from peers as well as her professors. By putting time and effort into projects as a team rather than individually, she found that she was able to enjoy the assigned work. “The ability of a team can be exponentially greater than that of individuals,” she explained.
Mariel considers her classmates in MSE to be her family and appreciates how her peers care for her both as an individual and as a student. In such a large university, she is pleased to have a core group of students she can relate to and enjoys working with. She also admires MSE professors, who each share their extensive experience in the field and ensure students get the most out of their learning.
Beyond the classroom, Mariel collaborates with fellow members within the UConn Material Advantage student chapter (UCMA), which is an organization tailored for MSE students. As a member of UCMA, Mariel assists in running materials demonstrations, hosting educational camps, and participating in outreach to interest children in materials science. Members also share their MSE experiences and connect with alumni to learn more about the career opportunities available within the field.
As a soon-to-be graduate, Mariel plans to work in the engineering industry once she graduates in May. She hopes for a career that will incorporate her passion for hands-on work, which she discovered early in her MSE undergraduate career. “MSE is unique because we start technical labs our second semester of sophomore year. This means we have a total of five semesters of technical projects to help students refine interests and learn useful skills that are desired by employers,” Mariel stated. After she refines her interests through industry experience, Mariel plans on pursuing further education within materials science and engineering. Perhaps she’ll return to our PhD, MS, or MEng programs like many of our graduates.