By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
Have you ever made a decision that you knew in your heart was the right choice? Well, undergraduate student Ryan Gordon knows the feeling! “The UConn MSE program was the reason I decided upon attending UConn in the first place! I absolutely loved the labs when I toured, the close-knit nature of the students in the program and the professors as well,” says Gordon. “Attending UConn was honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Ryan Gordon, a senior graduating this spring, chose to study materials science and engineering because of its versatility. “There is not a single engineering degree that is as useful to a new undergraduate as MSE. Almost every single company across the country needs someone with a materials background,” he says.
He has had an incredible time at MSE as a part of Assistant Professor Lesley Frame’s research group. The group focuses on structure-processing-property-performance relationships for engineering alloys. Specifically, Gordon focuses on how the fission product, tellurium influences the mechanical properties of a high nickel alloy in molten salt reactors. “Working in the lab with Professor Frame has been an amazing experience, especially for my future career in MSE. I have learned so much from her. I learned how to effectively present research, how to be organized in a lab setting and how to set up and run an effective research project,” he says. “Professor Frame and the other members of her lab group molded me into the student and researcher that I am today.”
He also praises the mentorship of Undergraduate Laboratory Director Fiona Leek. “Professor Leek has provided me with so much advice when it comes to running a project, I would not be where I am today without her,” states Gordon. “My technical writing skills were not the best coming into school, but, thanks to her feedback, I have improved significantly in this area. I would like to thank her greatly for being a fantastic professor and role model.”
Likewise, Professor Leek praises Gordon on his development. “The best part of my job is seeing students transform from an enthusiastic, but hesitant sophomore to a confident researcher on graduation. This does not happen with all— it definitely has with Ryan,” states Leek. “I know he will do extremely well with whatever he tackles in the future.”
Besides research, Gordon has also been involved in the student chapter, University of Connecticut Material Advantage (UCMA). The chapter provides career opportunities and outreach events to educate the general public, specifically K-12, about the field of MSE. Gordon has been the President of UCMA since 2020.
Also, he has had two summer internships during his time at UConn: Texas A&M University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “I was not too sure where I wanted to go with my career, but I knew these experiences would help me decide whether research was something that I would enjoy,” says Gordon. “These internships showed me that I can run a project on my own, and it allowed me to make great connections as well as figure out the path I wanted to take.”
At each internship, Gordon learned how to make informative posters, how to run a project effectively and how to collaborate with lab mates. “My favorite part was honestly the people that I met,” he says, “They showed me what it was like to work in a lab as a PhD student and made my summers really informative and fun at the same time.”
Speaking of PhD students, Gordon recently accepted a Research Assistantship to pursue a PhD in MSE at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research will be focused on materials corrosion in molten salt reactors. Post-graduation he hopes to go into industry and lead a failure analysis group or pursue a career at any one of the National Labs throughout the country.
Gordon gives credit to UConn MSE for preparing him for his new role at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The laboratory classes I took with Professor Leek helped to reinforce the necessary lab knowledge such as correct PPE, how to dispose of toxic chemicals and other necessary laboratory procedures,” he says. He also claims that working in Professor Frame’s research group gave him the essential skills for working in a laboratory.
“As I said, one of the best decisions I have ever made was to attend UConn for my undergraduate degree. The best decision I ever made? That was to do materials science and engineering,” he says. If you asked high schooler Gordon where he thought he would be today, the last thing he would have ever said would be that he was pursuing a PhD. “The past four years in MSE here at UConn have completely molded me into a student and person that I am proud of,” says Gordon. “I am, and forever will be, thankful for my time here studying materials science and engineering at the University of Connecticut.”