Materials Science and Engineering Success Stories

About me:

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Janelle Becker
B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2014) 
H.B. Fuller, St. Paul, MN 

Describe your overall duties/responsibilities as Technical Sales Manager: 
As a Technical Sales Manager, I support a sales team as the technical resource for our customers and am the liaison between the lab and the sales team. My company sells industrial adhesives and I'm responsible for determining if a product is the right fit for our customers, helping them optimize the use of our product, and troubleshooting when things go wrong.  Because of my responsibilities, I work with many different groups both internally and externally, including quality, production, marketing, sales, and R&D.   

Explain the skills/abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
Being in front of a customer representing your company, you need to be able to listen, pay attention to detail, and be patient.  It’s also important to be able to successfully present your information, whether that's verbally, or through presentations, reports, or spreadsheets.   Understanding chemistry, rheology, and material behaviors are important to the adhesives industry in developing products and identifying root cause of failures.  

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering? 
There are many different avenues and specialties in Materials Science, and because of this variety, we have many different opportunities! Whether you want to work in a lab, be on the production floor, or be more customer facing, take time to explore these options to find the right fit for you, because the possibilities are endless!

About me:

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Kathryn Esham
B.S. in Glass Science Engineering, Alfred University (2014)
M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2017) 
Honeywell Aerospace, Los Angeles, CA

Describe your overall duties / responsibilities as a Product Design Engineer:
Aerospace is a highly-regulated field, so we must know the industry specifications backwards and forwards to ensure our products and practices meet all Federal Aviation Administration requirements. Safety is our first concern, so making sound engineering decisions on the various elements of materials design like: material type (will aluminum or nickel based alloys meet temperature requirements?), form (can we physically make the part from a sheet or do we need bar?), processing (should there be a heat treatment or can we leave it as annealed?), and special procedures (can it be fillet welded or do we need a butt weld?) is a shared responsibility. We use this when supporting new product design- someone has an idea of how we can make something new and exciting and we bring confidence to the materials selection decision. We're also constantly evaluating and getting inspiration from old designs, so one of my common tasks is to review and "sign off" on engineering drawings for technical accuracy and best practices.

My leadership (managers and their managers) invest a lot in individual development, so if I'm not doing active project work, I'm working on tasks from my personalized professional development plan which is focused on key business areas- right now it's heat treatment and electronics. This could be anything from reading the latest research on a special process to participating in an upper level meeting hosted by area experts. Part of my plan includes online university classes (Honeywell covers the cost!), so part of my daily routine includes online lectures and assessments, and periodically reporting useful information I’ve learned back to the materials engineering team.
My favorite 'duty' of being a Materials Engineer at Honeywell is the failure analysis; when a part fails in the field (i.e. after the customer uses it) or off the production line, we need to understand exactly what happened and why. It's a little bit "Materials Science: CSI"; we compare the material requirements of the design to the final part and perform metallographic and fractographic analyses using tools ranging from a basic microscope to SEM. It gets especially fun when we need to do something challenging like find a leak on a complicated design, but there isn't standard practice which lets us get creative. One time we put soap on the side of a part and used compressed air to push it through a micro-scale hole, the bubbles showed us the exact leak path.

Explain the skills / abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
Being open to working on any project and having the curiosity to answer random questions is key. The Materials Engineering team at Honeywell Aerospace is really a grab bag of different projects and tasks. Our responsibilities range from giving one-off opinions on which aluminum alloy heat treatment would be best for a new heat exchanger design, to meticulously identifying fatigue striations on failed parts returned from aircraft. I once had someone ask if they could qualify a welder who only had one eye- not exactly something that's covered in the documentation. But approaching every inquiry and project with enthusiasm is the common factor in their success.
Having an eye (or two!) for detail or at least the discipline to check your work makes a huge difference in how you're perceived. I review engineering drawings frequently, often for product lines I don't work on every day. I've found typos- like swapping two dimensions- that seem minor but could cause major production issues later. Going over things with a fine-toothed comb may be slower than a lot of people like to move, but it's paid off when coworkers recommend me to other projects because of my attention to detail.
Developing professional relationships through effective communication and courtesy is absolutely necessary for success. I interface with suppliers (to make sure they meet our needs) and customers (to make sure we meet theirs) every day so I have to form and maintain relationships constantly. It doesn’t have to mean networking and putting yourself out there- but a friendly greeting in an email or picking up the phone to check-in really makes a difference. People skills are just as critical (if not more) as technical skills for the success of a project. No one accomplishes anything alone.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?
 Everything is a material, so every field needs materials scientists and engineers! You can really take MSE to any industry: academia, medical, aerospace, automotive, nuclear, instrumentation/equipment, food, consumer products, and even entertainment; I met a materials engineer in Disney Imagineering who was tasked with performing a full materials analysis of Cinderella Castle to determine what type of wear it would see and what protections it needs.
The beauty of materials science is if you want change industries, the products will be different but your basic understanding of the materials process-structure-properties relationships will transfer right over. If you’re not sure what you want to do, MSE is a great place to explore your interests. And if you have a passion or interest in materials already, OSU is one of the best places to be! The range of research and background experiences the professors bring to the school is wide-ranging and unique, and they’re often keen to engage curious students in research.
For anyone debating if a graduate degree is worth it I’ll say that undergrad taught me the basics of what engineering is and grad school taught me how to think in an engineering mindset. I think you can also learn how to think about things (yes, that's a thing) on the job, but doing this in academia sets you up for a faster trajectory in industry because you start out at a higher level. Depending on what your goals are don’t rule out a Master’s in a rush to join “the real world” (industry)- it might be worth your time to do some deeper learning first.

About me:

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Kelvin Hux
B.S. Materials Science & Engineering (2012)
Honda R&D Americas Inc., Raymond, OH

Describe your overall duties / responsibilities as a Materials Research Engineer:
My work focuses on the application and development of elastomeric and styrenic plastics for the automotive industry. This can range from working with suppliers during a quality assurance visit to testing and proving out a new material to apply to automobiles. As far as specific testing, on certain days I could be running a durability test for suspension parts, performing a hot to cold temperature cycle for vehicle confirmation, or developing a new test method and setup to represent vehicle market usage.

Explain the skills / abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
Communication – This is an important skill that applies to any job and quite honestly life in general. If you can’t communicate your plan nor your projects, don’t expect someone else to have a clear understanding. I routinely communicate with associates whose first language is Japanese, so clear communication is of the utmost importance in my day-to-day work life.
Perseverance – The most rewarding projects never follow a smooth and easy path. You will most certainly run into setbacks and frustration when working on any new technology, unique problem, or difficult challenge. Since these are inevitable issues, the key for success is how you handle them.
Positive Attitude – This not only helps you be successful but it also benefits those around you. Personally, this helps with perseverance. Do you let the boat sink, finish the trip on a battered boat, or continuously strive to repair the boat to reach its ideal state? My point is that you cannot allow yourself to get disgruntled to the point it affects  the quality of your work. Having a positive attitude helps you and those around you to be tremendously successful.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?
Engineering is tough. You will hear that a thousand times. You’ll spend your fair share of studying overnight, hours locked away in a lab, and the occasional not so “easy” exam. Every engineer experiences this but you won’t be able to find the same environment that MSE provides. While I was in school I enjoyed smaller class sizes and the tight group of 40-50 students in my graduating class. Bonding with the smaller group made the overnight studying , exams, and labs bearable. The MSE faculty are highly capable and qualified to teach almost everything about materials. Whether it is polymers, metals, electronics, or ceramics, understanding the behaviors of materials is essential for any engineering job, and The Ohio State University Materials Science & Engineering department is a perfect place to learn.

About me:

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Libby Hogben
B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2005)
The J.M. Smucker Company., Terminal Island, CA

Describe your overall duties/responsibilities as Research & Development Manager:
I lead a team of product developers and process engineers. I represent R&D in the product design bid process, lead customer-facing quality initiatives and set direction for our business as part of a multifunctional leadership team.

Explain the skills/abilities that are required for being successful in your role:  
Some of the skills required in my role are the ability to deal with ambiguity, creative problem solving, and strong communication skills.  It’s also important to have strong influencing skills and a desire to continuously learn.  The ability to collaborate with many different business functions, such as marketing, sales, manufacturing, finance, etc.  Finally, I think that a sense of humor and compassion for others are important skills for all leaders.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?  
Keep in mind that MSE’s are successful in many kinds of careers, including those with consumer packaged goods companies.  The technical depth and problem solving abilities that an engineer brings enable companies to bring faster and stronger innovation to their product portfolio.  Look for opportunities to take business courses to develop your business acumen and to have internships with companies in your field of interest.

About me:

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Elana Spiegler
B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2017)
Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN

Describe your overall duties/responsibilities as an Associate R&D Engineer:
Within Medtronic, I work in the Diabetes group, where I am involved in developing next generation biosensors for application in continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices. My main responsibilities include carrying out feasibility testing and characterization of these subcutaneous glucose sensors in both in vitro systems and in vivo models, as well as analyzing data to evaluate their functionality and performance in these environments. As an R&D engineer, I gain exposure to a wide variety of tasks through hands-on lab experience and interface with diverse teams in order to leverage their knowledge and resources to advance our projects.

Explain the skills/abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
In my role, it is necessary to be open-minded and have a strong desire to continuously learn. There are numerous unknowns in R&D, so you have to be able to work well in ambiguity, which means being willing to experiment with multiple factors and aspects in a lab setting in order to gain insight on how certain variations will impact the performance of the product or component you are working on. You must be able to think critically about results and possess the ability to solve problems and apply fundamental MSE principles to generate innovative concepts and ideas. It is essential to have patience because it is highly likely that it will take many rounds of trial and error and designing of experiments before achieving a desirable outcome or arriving at a feasible solution to a problem. Detail orientation is key when performing these intricate experiments and analyzing data. Additionally, time management skills are necessary because there are often multiple assignments for a specific project or you may be involved in several projects simultaneously. Communication skills are also imperative, as being in R&D involves collaborating with various cross-functional teams of various backgrounds, both internally and externally, in order to make significant progress on novel projects.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?
MSE is a unique and compelling discipline because it is such a versatile field that can be applied to multiple industries given the fact that everything involves materials; however, it can also be extremely specialized depending on how you choose to approach it. There are numerous career paths you can pursue with a MSE degree, as it is relevant at all stages of the product life cycle: whether it is research and development, manufacturing and production, quality, reliability, materials sourcing, etc., the opportunities are multifaceted. I would definitely suggest fully utilizing and taking advantage of all of the resources Ohio State has to offer. The MSE program at Ohio State is an amazing tight knit community that will equip you with all of the tools necessary to succeed as long as you are proactive. Becoming involved in research and completing internships and/or co-ops are great opportunities to obtain hands on experience and discover which specialization areas you are most passionate about and what type of work excites you.

About me:

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Mike Williard
MEng in Materials Engineering, University of Cincinnati (2014)
B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2013)
Worthington Industries, Columbus, OH

Describe your overall duties/responsibilities as a Technical Services Manager:
I support our sales, quality, and production teams with technical knowledge in order to develop metallurgical engineering solutions to meet our customer's needs. This often involves data analytics, metallurgical trials and design of experiments to continuously enhance our cold-rolled-strip steel product -- that value is ultimately is passed to our customers. We also work closely with both our customers and steel suppliers in order to develop and fine-tune the outgoing strip product.

Explain the skills/abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
There are a myriad of traits and skills that are required to be successful in any MSE role. In my position, the most important of those is our Golden Rule at Worthington: treat everyone as we would like to be treated. Maintaining a positive attitude with fellow employees, customers and suppliers can go a long way in maintaining productive work environment. Another key trait is communication. Being able to indirectly (email, reports) and directly (verbally) communicate with everyone on our team at Worthington, as well as our customers and suppliers is essential to getting the job done correctly and efficiently.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?
One of the best decisions I made in during my undergraduate and graduate school career was to take a variety of both engineering and non-engineering classes in order to expand my skill-sets and expand my knowledge across multiple departments. In particular, classes in leadership, technical writing, public speaking and business/economics are just a few of the options at will allow you most effectively use your MSE knowledge in the work force.

About me:

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Adam Young
M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2013)
B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering (2011)
Precision Castparts Corp., Portland, OR

Describe your overall duties/responsibilities as a Plant Metallurgist:
As a Plant Metallurgist, I monitor and control all aspects of incoming alloys and metallurgical processes involved in investment casting. My facility produces Ni and Co-based superalloy investment castings for the industrial gas turbine industry as well as titanium aluminide components for the commercial aerospace industry. I’m responsible for defining alloy chemistries optimized for our casting process, monitoring chemistry and mechanical properties with statistical process control, and maintaining all welding processes for defect repair. My position also requires direction of engineering approaches to new process design, cost reduction initiatives, and part profitability improvement. I routinely work with sales, operations, engineering, quality, facilities, and process control.

Explain the skills/abilities that are required for being successful in your role:
My current role requires interpersonal skills for working in a team environment, project management, and an understanding of metallurgical processes and properties of several different types of alloys. Success in my role depends on timely completion of tasks and the ability to meet objectives set by upper management. It’s not uncommon to be the sole Materials Science Engineer on a team. Communicating the logic behind a project outline, the instructions to complete a task and the results of your work are absolutely essential to a career in any field.

What advice would you give to students who are considering majoring in Materials Science and Engineering?
The MSE program at Ohio State is unique in that it gives you an amazing breadth of coursework and research opportunities while staying close-knit enough to develop friendships with peers and professors. You will learn a great deal about working in a team environment and problem solving while gaining knowledge that can be applied to all sorts of careers in many different industries. I think I came away with a curiosity and way of looking at the world that I didn’t have before MSE. Combining the MSE major with Business, Statistics, Biology, Design, or any number of other secondary coursework subjects allows you to really customize your education and define your focus.