You Can Inspire Your Kids Someday to Study MSE

By Alec Arbia, Written Communications Assistant 

photo of Anthony Manni, UConn MSE alum, standing next to a plasma etch chamber that he uses for daily production as Chief Technology Officer at TelAztec

Anthony Manni, UConn MSE alum, standing next to a plasma etch chamber that he uses for daily production as Chief Technology Officer at TelAztec

When asked what led to him majoring in materials science and engineering (mse), Anthony Manni, UConn alum, said his biggest inspiration has been his father, Jeff Manni. “He’s been a laser scientist for the last 40 years and is an encyclopedia of optical materials and laser crystals as a result. I knew that if I got an education in mse I could work with him one day, which is still a major goal of mine.”
Manni initially toured UConn during his junior year of high school. “MSE was a very unique program at the time, the only MSE undergraduate program at a state school in New England. Because of this, I was fortunate to attend UConn for nearly in-state tuition via the Regional Student Program. This was a big deciding factor, and I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity.” The department’s strength in nanotechnology was also very appealing and a focus of Manni’s elective courses.
Several professors inspired Manni during his time at UConn. He mentioned Professor Rainer Hebert (Associate Director of IMS and Director of Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center), Dr. Harold Brody (Emeritus Professor), and Dr. Bryan Huey (MSE Department Head). “Professor Niloy Dutta (of the Department of Physics) was one of my favorite professors because of his laser research. Dr. C. Barry Carter (Emeritus Professor) was great as well, his lectures were more like discussions, and he worked hard at helping students internalize concepts. The topics I learned in solid state physics and ceramic materials taught by the latter two professors, respectively, were immediately applicable to my job when I started at TelAztec.”
Manni said that he has his father to thank for his exciting career at TelAztec. “He sent my resume to some companies in the greater Boston photonics industry when I was looking for summer internships. A year after I graduated, TelAztec reached out and asked if I would be interested in what was originally a technician role. Given my background in nanomaterials, it was a perfect fit and I was familiar with all of the fabrication procedures here, so they hired me as a staff scientist instead. Six years later – this past fall – I was promoted to Chief Technology Officer (CTO) because of all the work I’ve done to progress our technology in terms of production efficiency and generating new ideas.”
“My role as CTO basically spans every technological aspect of our daily operations,” Manni added. “I’m currently the principal investigator on a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Project, so that takes up much of my time. Additionally, I lend technical leadership on our commercial production jobs, and develop new uses for technology like 3D printing of manufacturing-related tools and vacuum-forming of custom packages. I also wrote and continually maintain a custom python library for data compilation and analysis so our engineers can spend less time on generating reports. Lastly, I do a lot of nano-photonics simulations, especially when writing proposals for new project funding.”
When asked about the favorite part of his job, and then the most difficult part of it, Manni answered that they were one in the same. “Creating new products is the most difficult aspect of what I do. Ironically, the most difficult things also tend to be the most rewarding. We have a lot of ideas, and many of them don’t work. Facing failure head on and having the patience to learn from it, rather than to sulk or give up, is a constant struggle. I try to highlight the victories when I can – and when I do fail, make sure I gather enough information about it to truly learn and make progress on the next attempt.”
Manni has several projects coming up that he was excited to talk about. “Currently I am working on projects for the Air Force developing novel optical components with our metasurface technology for defense systems based on high power lasers. We are also developing our random anti-reflective nano-texture treatment for diamond, which has applications in semiconductor manufacturing as well as quantum computing.”
The advice that Manni has for current MSE students is what he says every professor tells you as a first year: “Just stick with it! Those first few courses are tough, and you just have to keep your head up. Collaborate with others as much as possible – it’s often easier to learn a concept by talking it through with someone who doesn’t understand everything about it, rather than being lectured by someone who does.”
Another recommendation Manni has is getting into coding. “If you don’t code now, it’s never too late to start. I learned how to code when I was 27 and it changed my life., Coursera, and Udemy are all great platforms for learning through practice. Or even youtube videos!”
Manni reflects on his time as an undergraduate fondly. “UConn’s MSE program provided me with such a versatile foundation and the tools I use every day in my career. I’m grateful to everyone in the program and highly recommend it to anyone considering UConn or engineering in general!”

Published: April 6, 2023

Categories: alumni, industry, manufacturing, news

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