Undergraduate Spotlight: Brenden Mil-Homens

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Brenden Mil-Homens

(Front right): Brenden Mil-Homens playing marimba during a performance
at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT. (Photo: Bill Morgan)

What are you currently studying?
Materials Science and Engineering

What initially attracted you to the Materials Science and Engineering Program at the University of Connecticut?
I was in the process of leaving a major that did not suit me very well. I wanted something more dynamic, where learning was more hands on. I asked a few of my friends, and one of them suggested I look into Materials Engineering. He suggested I speak with Professor Leon Shaw and Dr. Pamir Alpay, and once I did, I was sold. They told me about how dynamic the field is and how secure the jobs are, two of the most important aspects for me. I have not looked back since joining MSE. It is arguably the best decision of my college career.

What research areas interest you?
I’m interested in learning more about composite materials and how they can replace metals, polymers, and ceramics. I would like to research various processing methods so as to improve the cost efficiency of mass producing composites. That being said, I am more interested in moving into industry as of now and applying what I already know.

What research, extracurricular activities, internships, or other experiences have you been involved in?
I spent a summer at the University of Florida researching electrospinning, and I spent about a year doing research on hot isostatic pressing here at UConn. I also had an internship at Nucor Steel Connecticut, a steel rolling mill in Wallingford. Most of my time outside of academia has been with the UConn Marching Band, or the UCMB. I have learned as much as a member of the band as I have in class.

What abilities or personal qualities do you believe contributed most to your success so far?
I think that my ability to work well with most people has really helped me to be successful. Being a member of the UCMB has given me the opportunity to work with people across all majors and at different levels of their college careers. This has really helped me understand and get along with people from different walks of life. This carries over into my academics as an engineer because much of our work is group work. Being able to understand and respect other people’s ideas has led to a great deal of success with these teams.

What is your favorite course you have taken at UConn?
My favorite class at UConn was Professor Brody’s Thermodynamics of Materials. The course was immensely helpful in understanding the way the world works, but the best thing about this class was Professor Brody’s teaching style. He expected us to be engineers, where we would work in teams and try to solve real world problems. That, along with his high expectations of his students, helped me to become an engineer. This course really showed me how much work it takes to be an engineer, and now I see the world differently than I did before that course.

What is your favorite part of the scientific process?
I’m results oriented, so finding the results and then communicating them is my favorite part. It is very rewarding to finish a project and prepare for a new one.

What are your future research plans?
I plan to research any materials related subject that fits in my line of work, whatever that may be.

What are your future academic and career goals?
I intend to begin my career in industry immediately after graduation, hopefully in a comprehensive training program in materials engineering. I would like to complete this program, get situated in a full time job, and then look into graduate school. Ideally, the company I work for will support a Masters of Engineering, or perhaps even a Ph.D. The subject of my research, however, will be something that my employer and I will agree upon so that my academics can further help my career and the company I work for.

What advice do you have for students, like you, who are pursuing a career in materials science?
I would strongly recommend that students in MSE get to know their professors as the department is excellent and the professors are incredible people. They have gone above and beyond purely being educators, as they have proven to be excellent advisors and mentors. I would also suggest to other students that they find the right group of people to work with. I attribute my success to a few of my classmates that I have worked with in a majority of my MSE courses, classmates that have become some of my best friends and motivators. These relationships have proven time and time again to make me a better engineer, and so I would recommend that other students find a similar group of students with the same goals.

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