Materials Science Students in Select Company

Southern has joined a small but select group of schools in New England – and is one of only about six dozen internationally – which have established a university chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), an organization that seeks to foster discussion and interest among students and faculty in the various materials disciplines.

Carol Jenkins and Melissa Cruz, who are seniors pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in physics recently received a certificate to mark Southern's participation within MRS. Both students are in the university's new engineering concentration within the Physics Department. Jenkins serves as president of the chapter, which currently has 10 members. Cruz is the vice president.

materials research society photoSouthern joins six other colleges and universities in New England -- University of Connecticut; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Boston University; Northeastern University; University of Massachusetts, Lowell; and the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. It was among eight schools to have added a chapter worldwide within the last year.

"This unique network provides a chance to compare notes on recent activities and brainstorm with other students on new projects and issues of common concern," says Lorri Smiley, MRS professional services and awards coordinator. "As a recently added chapter, Southern now has the opportunity to connect with different regions from around the globe to maximize positive impact for materials research worldwide."

Materials science is a discipline that includes the creation of technologically-advanced items, ranging from computer chips to biological implants. Southern established a joint materials science center with Yale University about seven years ago. The center is designed to offer more advanced research opportunities for students seeking to enter the scientific research field, as well as to enhance the education of future science teachers.

The university also hosts the Connecticut State University Center for Nanotechnology. The center includes specialized equipment, including a state-of-the-art Scanning Electron Microscope, which uses electrons to image materials on the atomic scale.

Christine Broadbridge, chairwoman of the Physics Department, says that participation in the MRS will open even more doors to students wishing to pursue materials science. As an example, both Cruz and Jenkins also were among a group of Southern physics students who presented a poster at a recent MRS conference. The poster focused on carbon nanotubes.

"It is certainly not the norm to have undergraduate students presenting at conferences at the international level," Broadbridge says. "That is a quite a feather in the cap of these students, as well as for Southern. Being able to put that on their resume is going to give them an edge when it comes time to apply to graduate school or for a job in the materials science field."