By Allison McLellan
The University of Connecticut Material Advantage Chapter is this year’s winner of a Chapter of Excellence award from the Material Advantage Student Program. The award presentation took place on Tuesday, October 6th at the Columbus Convention Center, where the UConn chapter was given a plague and check for $450.00.
The Chapters of Excellence Program recognizes Student Chapters for consistent achievement in benefiting students and the community as a whole. Criteria used to determine excellence includes the individual Chapter’s programming activities, career development, outreach service, social activities, and chapter management.
Officers that contributed to the Chapter’s outstanding work last year were the President Alexandra Merkouriou, Vice President Rheanna Ward, Secretary Luke McCarthy, Treasurer Lauren Salisbury, Social Chair Joey Pacheco, Outreach Chair Zane Grady, and Undergraduate Representative Zachary Thatcher, all undergraduate students of the UConn Material Science and Engineering Department. Alexandra had also written the UCMA Annual report, which is submitted every year to the national board to remain an active chapter, and also to be nominated for Chapter of Excellence. Her hard work put into this report helped to bring recognition to the Chapter’s efforts.
She says, “I am incredibly proud of the UConn Material Advantage Chapter! Through countless hours of dedication and endless support from our department, the members and officers of UCMA have really been able to come together and push the boundaries of what we, as an organization, are capable of. Not only were we able to accomplish our goals of bringing professional development to our members and inspiring K-12 students through outreach, but we also gained school wide and even nation wide recognition! I’m glad that I could leave the chapter in such a position, and I’m sure that the new officers will be able to accomplish even greater achievements.”
Chapter advisor Dr. Avinash Dongare adds, “These officers have put in endless hours to organize several programming events, industrial visits, career development activities, as well as outreach activities that have helped the undergraduate students to understand, explore, and achieve the desired careers in the field.”
Along with ASM Hartford Chapter, the group kept busy this past year contributing to students’ education and the community. For example, there was a materials camp put on by ASM Hartford and facilitated by UConn, which included four different high schools coming to the university and touring MSE facilities. Not only that, but members also visited E.O. Smith and Glastonbury East Hartford Magnet School to put on demonstrations and answer general questions about engineering and material science. At the Magnet School, they also organized events such as “Science Night, “Invention Convention,” and “Magnetic Attractions” in order to help students broaden their demo portfolios and utilize their creativity to make lesson plans and demos for k-5th grade students.
Furthermore, they were participants in the Multiply Your Options outreach event hosted by the Society of Woman Engineers, and were able to visit the capital to promote their program when budget cuts were up for debate.
Annual events the group has contributed to include UConn’s open houses, where they promote their major and UConn engineering for families of prospective students. Additionally, they visit the Materials Science and Technologies Conference to represent our school in several materials competitions, recently securing first place in the Ceramic Frisbee Golf Competition and second place in the Domesday Competition. Other exciting participation includes technology partnership in the student-led ‘Time Capsule to Mars’ (TC2M) mission and leads the materials effort in the design of the time capsule that will be transported to Mars.
One significant event that started two years ago is a banquet in which industry partners, UConn staff and faculty, and undergraduate students are invited to dine together and listen to a range of speakers. Many of these interactions have resulted in students acquiring summer internships or opportunities to work in a research lab at the university.
In the realm of professional development, the chapter hosted a “Resume Preparation” session where students were given tips on key information to include on a resume. Their resumes were then submitted to UConn Alumni, upperclassman, and graduate students for critique. Not only that, but they also conducted a “Career Options Night” with a panel of 5 graduate students and 10 recently graduate industry professionals. This allowed undergraduates to learn about life after graduation and steps to take for graduate school or industry careers. In addition to that, there was an “Interview Preparation” session that provided the chance to practice mock interviews with professionals from the industry, including Pratt and Whitney and Westinghouse.
The Chapter also conducted a ‘Plan-of-Study’ workshop to help to help underclassman pick the right classes for the rest of their time at UConn. In addition, the chapter coordinated a ‘Career Finances’ session to help the graduate seniors to understand life after graduation. A representative from Westinghouse was invited to discuss what to expect from your first day of work, as well as how to handle a pay stub and 401k/insurance. Other activities involved tours of Otis Elevator test facility, the ARL Cold Spray Facility, and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT).
With the graduation of previous members, the new board for this year includes President Jordan Kovacs, Vice President/Event Coordinate Zach Thatcher, Treasurer John Rasimas, Secretary Kevin Yong, Social Chair Ryan Chapman, and Outreach Chair Zane Grady.
“Being a part of the chapter has done fantastic things for my experience here at UConn,” says Zach Thatcher. “It not only helped give me connections to other students, but also to industry professionals and members of the department who have helped me in my career to an indispensable extent. It has assisted me in picking classes and preparing for my workloads, so that no matter what challenges I face, I always feel like I know what I’m getting into. The MA Chapter is a great resource and in the future we hope to continue providing all of these great services to our members.“