By Allison McLellan
Recently, UConn’s Material Advantage Student Chapter held their annual Material Science Banquet at Hillel. After an initial rescheduling, the event garnered so much interest that MA officers voluntarily gave up seats in order to fit guests into table arrangements.
The event was organized by Chapter President Jordan Korvacs and Event Coordinator and Vice President Zachary Thatcher, with help planning, setting up, and coordinating from Treasurer Jon Rasimas, Outreach Chair Zane Grady, Secretary Kevin Yong, Social Chair Ryan Chapman, and newly elected officers Justin Weber, Kenna Ritter, and Brittany Nelson. MSE graduate student Keith Dusoe, undergraduate Leo Valencia, and Department Head Dr. Alpay are also credited for finalizing details of the banquet.
Although organized by a material science organization, the event was open to those studying any field of engineering. Jordan says, “We had several different types of engineering majors attend, including civil, mechanical and chemical engineers. I hope the banquet had a positive impact on their opinion of material science and engineering, and reminds all engineering majors that they wouldn’t be able to innovate and design groundbreaking projects without the materials that can back it up. “
Also in attendance were recent MSE graduates who enthusiastically shared their post-grad experiences studying at graduate school or working in the industry. It was an opportune night for networking with industry professionals present as well from GE, Electric Boat, Pratt and Whitney, and QuesTek.
Zach Thatcher kicked off the festivities with a personal speech about his interest in the field of materials science and engineering from a student’s perspective. Afterwards, Kevin Yong spoke about his upcoming transition out of academia and into the engineering world. Additional speakers included Dr. Harold Brody, distinguished professor of UConn, who shared his journey and experiences towards becoming a distinguished professor, providing perspective on how the department has rapidly grown in such a short amount of time. Dr. Francis Preli, the Chief Engineer of Materials Processes Engineering at Pratt and Whitney, was another professional speaker. He discussed the groundbreaking work being done at Pratt and Whitney and the direction he perceives the materials engineering industry to be going in. With his lecture, he impressed upon the attendees that innovation starts with researching new and improving materials, both solidifying and motivating the ardent studying of UConn engineering students.
Both event organizers Jordan and Zach agree that the night was successful in that it brought together numerous faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and industry professionals to make connections, whether they be for friendship or for academic or industrial collaboration. Zach says, “To me, this event primarily serves to rejuvenate the passion of the students for what we study. Getting to see people speak on their experiences and why they enjoy the field is a great way to make the end goal of this four-year endeavor a greater reality. Also, in my opinion, it is generally never a bad idea to fill a room with bright, like-minded individuals and good food.”
This event caps off the year for Jordan who will be graduating, leaving behind her post as leader of UConn’s Material Advantage. Having been a member for three years, Zach has the honor of taking her place by being elected Chapter president for the upcoming academic year. He continues, “This has been one of the most meaningful parts of my academic career at UConn, and more than anything, this event is a way for our organization to give back to the faculty and students for all of the wonderful things they have done for us. In summary, I can’t say enough good things about the Material Science and Engineering Department here at UConn. And I couldn’t be happier that I ended up here.”