By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant
Undergraduate student Hale Tresselt didn’t always know she wanted to study materials science and engineering. In fact, it was UConn MSE’s very own Professor and Interim Associate Department Head, Serge Nakhmanson, who convinced Tresselt to pursue a degree materials science and engineering during the “Exploring Engineering” program for high school students. “Initially I thought I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. That was until I came to UConn and took a tour of the School of Engineering. There I actually met Professor Nakhmanson and he described the Material Science program to me,” Tresselt says. “Originally, I wanted to pursue sustainable design. When I spoke to Professor Nakhmanson, I realized that I actually wanted to work in sustainable material research and design. This conversation really propelled my interest in material science further.” Nakhmanson, the other professors, facilities and overall community influenced her ultimate decision to pursue her bachelors at UConn MSE.
Once at UConn, her passion for materials science and engineering immediately skyrocketed. “I may be biased but I think materials science is so cool. Everything is made of something and I just love being able to look at things and know why they are made of a certain material or why something has cracked the way it has,” Tresselt exclaims.
While Tresselt was inspired by Nakhmanson, another MSE faculty member inspired her as well: Undergraduate Laboratory Director Fiona Leek. “Professor Leek is incredible and I truly cannot say enough good things about her. She provides great and thoughtful feedback and has really improved my writing as an engineer,” says Tresselt. “She provides clear direction and organization that is very applicable to time management in the real world. I am so grateful that I have gotten to work with Professor Leek as much as I have.”
Currently, Tresselt does research with Nakhmanson alongside PhD student Mohamad Daeipour. Their research involves simulating the effect of different pour temperatures on solidification of cast metals. On campus she is also a part of the Materials Advantage Club and the UConn Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team.
Following her freshman and sophomore year, Tresselt had summer internships at Philips Healthcare, and following her junior year she had a summer internship at the Los Alamos National Lab. “At Philips I did a lot of foam and adhesive testing so most days I would be creating samples and running different tests on their strength,” she says. “I learned so much about regulation and just how much thought has to go into every aspect of design and then later tested. I left this job far more aware of the small details that design engineers have to deal with constantly.”
While Tresselt loved her internships, unfortunately, the Covid-19 Pandemic made things difficult. “We found ourselves having to find ways to get large amounts of testing done with far fewer days in the office. This made for some extremely long nights,” Tresselt says.
But, working at these internships helped Tresselt feel more confident as a woman in materials science and engineering. “My boss was fantastic. She was a young engineer with so much advice to give about being a young woman in a very male dominated field,” she says. “I learned so much from her, not only about how to be a better engineer, but about how to present myself with confidence.”
Post-graduation, Tresselt wants to continue in academia. “I am hoping to move on to getting my masters and potentially my PhD,” she states. “My goal is to help others by researching sustainable materials as well as more sustainable manufacturing processes to help lesson our harm on the environment.”
While Tresselt originally wasn’t studying materials science and engineering, she is happy that she chose this field. “This degree can take you in so many different directions and provides so much information about things you might not have even thought to wonder about,” says Tresselt. While her journey had some bumps along the way, she had many mentors that helped her come out of her shell and bloom into a confident woman in the field of MSE.