By Amanda Campanaro
Nearly 50 undergraduates, professors, industry professionals and graduate students turned out for the fourth annual UConn Material Advantage networking banquet, held at UConn Hillel March 23.
The banquet hosted two guest speakers: Frederic C. Anderson, M.S., P.E., founder of Avantec Engineering LLC and Principle Investigator; and Professor Prabhakar Singh, Director of UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering, Director of the Fraunhofer Center for Energy Innovation (CEI) and UTC Endowed Chair Professor in Fuel Cell Technology.
“Both speakers stressed the importance of curiosity and observing situations from an untraditional point of view. Taking our failures and learning from them is what leads to breakthrough, and ultimately, success,” says Brittany Nelson, secretary-elect of UCMA.
The banquet is one of many events the chapter holds to stimulate interest in and provide resources for materials science and engineering. UCMA strives to establish a community for materials science and engineering students at UConn, and to provide valuable experiences for the undergraduates for professional development.
“Being able to network with professors and industry professionals in a semi-relaxed environment is invaluable to our members. Most students wouldn’t normally see such a diverse group of engineers and researchers in the same room without an organized setting like this,” says Kenna Ritter, fourth semester MSE major and president-elect of UCMA.
Many undergraduate members are interested in the companies that the industry professionals work in. “Even if our members don’t end up working directly with people they meet at the banquet, they have the valuable advice of someone who works at that company,” says Kenna.
Graduate students, professors, alumni and many industry professionals attended the event. “Undergraduates have the opportunity to meet with others who have different experiences in the field of MSE,” she says. “Being able to talk to others with more experience is always an invaluable opportunity.” UCMA’s goal is to foster the Materials Science community at UConn.
Student members organized the event with the help of their faculty advisors and staff members Lorri Lafontaine, Administrative Services Specialist, Heike Brueckner, Webmaster and Publicist, and Kaitlyn Cullen, Administrative Services Assistant. “We began preparations at the end of last semester,” says Kenna. “It’s a massive undertaking but we are all really happy with the final results of all of our hard work.”
They have already discussed plans and ideas for expanding banquet and making it an even better overall experience for everyone who comes. “Everyone who attends really likes the program we plan, and the food as well,” Kenna says.