Kayla Pittman Receives Fellowship from William & Mary

Ms. Kayla Pittman
Ms. Kayla M. Pittman, Administrative Assistant to IMS Director Dr. Steven Suib

IMS Administrative Assistant Kayla M. Pittman will soon be leaving UConn to pursue her Ph.D. in history at William & Mary, one of the oldest educational institutions in the United States.  Kayla has been awarded the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies. The competitive fellowship provides $4,000 per year for the first two years of graduate study, plus $500 in research expenses for the same period, in addition to the standard financial package offered with admission to the graduate program. The fellowship is awarded to only one graduate student each academic year.

Kayla was gracious to answer a few questions for IMS News:

You have decided to return to the classroom in pursuit of your Ph.D. What motivated you to take that step?
Coming out of my master’s program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I knew I wanted to use our shared past to engage diverse populations. I worked in various museum settings and with local schools to not only make history accessible, but also use it as a mechanism to unpack long-held understandings and provide new perspectives. The perennial sentiment that history is boring is a failure by the history community to provide opportunities to engage with the past and to present it in such a way that represents all audiences. I maintained strong ties to the academic and museum communities during my time at UConn. I found that my desire to effect positive change in my field pulled me towards a Ph.D. program. Simply put, it is time to go home.

You have been accepted into the graduate program at William & Mary and been honored with a prestigious fellowship.  What was your initial reaction to the news of being selected for the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies?
I am deeply honored to receive the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies. In 2011, I attended the Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School as an undergraduate. Standing in the blazing summer sun over a quadrat at Jamestown, we listened to Kelso explain that his team believed they were on the cusp of discovering the 1608 church in which Pocahontas and John Rolfe married. I was in awe then and am in awe now as I prepare to begin a Ph.D. program at William & Mary. Any one of William & Mary’s top-notch students in the history program are qualified to receive this award. I find myself in a state of humble disbelief that I am the 2019 recipient.

Though it is down the road a bit, how do you hope to apply your future research for real-world impact.
I hope my future research will add to the conversation surrounding slavery’s lasting legacy on America. Traditionally, slavery is taught along black and white lines. However, it effected and continues to effect diverse populations including Native Americans, women, immigrants, etc. Until we better understand how moments in time were navigated and manipulated by historical figures, we will never be able to truly have the breath of understanding needed to tackle present issues our nation faces.

You have been a joy to work with.  How will you remember your time at IMS and UConn?
I truly enjoyed being a part of the IMS community and all the wonderful people here who work hard every day to promote research and support students. I also especially enjoyed my time assisting IMS Director, Dr. Steven Suib and working with the IMS administrative team. I wish my successor, Ms. Kaitlyn Cullen all the best in her new role and look forward to keeping up with IMS news in the future.

Everyone at IMS is extremely proud of Kayla and we wish her all the best as she begins her journey at William & Mary.

Five Questions for Dr. Mei Wei

Dr. Mei Wei
Dr. Mei Wei

After a 17-year career at UConn, Dr. Mei Wei will be leaving to start a new journey as Dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University in Athens, OH. Dr. Wei’s trajectory from assistant professor to School of Engineering Centennial Term Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education speaks to her success as an educator, researcher, and administrator.

Dr. Wei found time in her extremely busy schedule for this five-question interview for IMS News:

Since first coming to UConn, how has your research and your perspective been influenced by advances in materials science?

Materials science research has advanced substantially in the past two decades. The emergence of many new technologies has enabled us to pursue research we could never do in the past.

How do you feel your work and experiences at UConn have prepared you for your new position as Dean of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University?

UConn has prepared me well for the new position. I entered UConn as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor and then full professor. Here, I learned how to be an educator. I established my research laboratory, I graduated my first doctoral student, and mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students. In recent years, I became involved in administration. Besides serving as the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education at the School of Engineering, I also serve as the Director for the General Electric Center of Excellence in Advanced Materials and Modeling, Director for Masters of Engineering in Global Entrepreneurship, and from 2015 to 2016, I served as interim department head. All these experiences have prepared me well for the new position as Dean of the Russ College.

As a woman who has found great success in a male-dominated field, how do you view the future of women in STEM professions?

Traditionally, Engineering is regarded as a field for males only. More and more women are entering the field and being successful. These women are excellent testimonies that the field is suitable for both genders. This will in turn encourage more females to enter STEM. I hope that we can close the gender gap in the near future.

Over the years, you have taught undergraduates and advised M.S. and Ph.D. students. How important is interaction with students and will you continue to mentor students in your new position?

As a professor, I really enjoy interacting with students.  Good mentorship is extremely important for students’ academic and career development. In my new role, I will continue to mentor students, learn their needs, and work with my colleagues to create a welcoming and uplifting study environment for the students.

On both a personal and professional level, how will you remember your tenure at UConn?

UConn was my first stop in the U.S. when I came from overseas, and the only place I can call home.  I have been here for 17 years.  At UConn, I was promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor, Full Professor, and then Associate Dean, Interim Department Head and center directorships. I purchased my first house here and both of my children were born in CT.  It was a rather difficult decision to leave UConn.  I will miss all my friends and colleagues here.

All of us at IMS will miss Dr. Wei as well, and we wish her continued success and growth in all her endeavors.

Jessica Rouge is Recipient of Inaugural Program in Accelerated Therapeutics for Healthcare (PATH) Award

Dr. Jessica Rouge, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry
Dr. Jessica Rouge, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry

Dr. Jessica Rouge, IMS faculty member from the Chemistry Department, has been awarded the inaugural Program in Accelerated Therapeutics for Healthcare (PATH) Award from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“I’m feeling very luck to have this opportunity,” Rouge says of the $75,000 PATH Trailblazer award, one of only two at this level of funding. The award will fund further development of Dr. Rouge’s investigation into “Determining the Pharmacology of a Novel DNAzyme-therapeutic Formulation for the Treatment of Allergic Airway Disease.”

PATH is a partnership that includes the OVPR, the School of Pharmacy, and the School of Medicine to accelerate the translational pathway for researchers to convert their discoveries to new medical therapeutics. Funding is provided to academic research programs designed to quickly develop novel therapeutic approaches focusing on well validated molecular targets for a specific disease area with an unmet treatment need in the current commercial marketplace.

“We are really excited about it. It will help to accelerate our work, so its a huge step!” Rouge says.


IMS Associate Director is Solving Problems in 3D

Dr. Rainer Hebert
IMS Associate Director Rainer Hebert, Director of the Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center at the Innovation Partnership Building. (Carson Stifel/UConn Photo)

We’ve all watched videos, mesmerized, while a machine adds layer upon layer to 3D print anything from a model of the Eiffel Tower to a rubber duck. Aside from being really cool, this technology has tremendous implications for revolutionizing companies’ manufacturing processes.

Under the leadership of Castleman Term Associate Professor in Engineering Innovation Rainer Hebert, the Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center (PW AMC) at the UConn Tech Park is addressing the biggest problems currently faced by the aerospace industry in additive manufacturing.

Hebert has been a member of the UConn faculty since 2006. In 2012, when the University launched the first stage of its partnership with Pratt & Whitney to develop an additive manufacturing center, Hebert was at the helm. The center began with three machines in the Longley Building.

Read the full story at UConn Today

Full Speed Ahead for Undergraduate Joe Tracey

by Dr. Jasna Jankovic for IMS

Joe Tracey and Adarsh Kongani
Joe Tracey (left) helps high school student, Adarsh Kongani of Amity High School, with his science project

Dr. Jasna Jankovic is excited about the future for Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate, Joe Tracey. She recently responded to an IMS News call for student news. Here is what Dr. Jankovic had to say about Joe:

I met Joe Tracey at the MSE Open House in September 2018. He was handing out those famous frozen marshmallows and enthusiastically explaining to visitors about materials science. He was curious about my research on clean energy and microscopy and in no time he found himself in my lab doing MSE 4989 Introduction to Research under my supervision. I tasked Joe with image processing of 3D microscopy images using Python coding language.

Soon enough I realized that Joe was very advanced in this work, and very motivated to learn and progress. In the short 6 months since he had started research in my group, Joe has not stopped to line up successes. He started working on a collaborative project with DigiM Solutions, one of my industrial collaborators, on image processing using machine learning. That work has already resulted in an accepted abstract with Joe as the first author for a presentation at the Microscopy and Microanalysis conference in Portland, OR, in August. Another publication titled Iterative Machine Learning Method for Pore-Back Artifact Mitigation in High Porosity Membrane FIB-SEM Image Segmentation in the Conference Proceedings.

Joe was awarded a UConn Undergraduate Travel Award for his trip to the conference. Although the funding did not fully cover his travel expenses, after my suggestion, Joe applied for and was granted the undergraduate IDEA Grant for his great idea to develop virtual reality module to teach students and kids material science. He will be working on that over the summer.

Joe has also been helping a high school student in my lab with his science project, and went above and beyond to make sure the student’s experiment is competed in time. Thank you, Joe!

What will Joe do this summer? Beside his work on the IDEA Grant project, Joe will be doing an internship at DigiM, gaining industrial experience in image processing and machine learning. He promised to be back to my lab in September, to continue research work that we have started.

Way to go, Joe! The sky is the limit!

Graduate Student Ayana Ghosh Wins Prestigious Fellowship Award

Student Ayana Ghosh
Graduate student Ayana Ghosh has been honored with the prestigious John Tanaka Fellowship Award for her extensive work and research into Computational Materials Design

MSE graduate student Ayana Ghosh has been named as the recipient of the prestigious John Tanaka Graduate Student Fellowship award, which is given annually to a UConn graduate student in the United States’ oldest honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.

The award, which was established in 1993, is named after chemistry professor emeritus and former Director of the Honors Programs, Dr. John Tanaka. Professor Tanaka led Phi Kappa Phi at UConn for many years during his 45 year career at UConn. He also taught inorganic chemistry, and advised many undergraduate and graduate students. Although he passed away seven years ago in April 2012, his name lives on in this prestigious award.

Ayana said she is “very pleased” to have won the award.

“This type of recognition always acts as a catalyst for me to continue my daily efforts in research, learn more, and perform better,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to receive exceptional mentorship from my advisors at UConn, Pfizer Inc. and Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as my previous institutions that have shaped my academic career to date. I wish to continue performing cutting-edge research on a wide-range of materials with present-day and prospective technological and medical applications while being engaged in events to encourage younger individuals to pursue careers of their choices, especially in STEM fields.”

Read the full story from the Materials Science and Engineering Department

Five-year Ph.D. Alumnus Paves Way for Breakthrough Electron Microscopy

Dr. Kyle Crosby
Dr. Kyle Crosby in the ZEISS lab next to a MultiSEM microscope. (Photo courtesy of Kyle Crosby)

Kyle Crosby earned his undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and his Ph.D. in materials science at UConn after spending nearly a decade working and researching in the department. He now works for ZEISS Microscopy, the German company behind MultiSEM, the world’s fastest scanning electron microscope which is used to scan everything from mouse brains to microchips to shale rocks. A Pennsylvania native, Dr. Crosby came to UConn MSE both to experience something new, and to receive a top-notch engineering education.

To start, tell us about your work.
Imaging and spectroscopy, specifically electron microscopy, are subjects I’ve been interested in since I worked with these tools at UConn. I’m currently in a business development role supporting sales and service colleagues from an applications and product marketing perspective. While I’m not directly operating a microscope much of the time, the hands-on experience from the MSE department and from my experiences as a research assistant are a huge help in understanding customer challenges and showcasing products to potential clients. The work I’ve done with MultiSEM, which is a highly unique multiple parallel-beam electron microscope, has allowed me to interact with leading researchers at Harvard, Sandia National Lab, and other innovative institutions around the world. I also coordinated sponsorship and served as an industry advisor on an MSE Senior Design project for students doing work that relates to this technology, so the journey from student to mentor has truly come full circle.

Read the full interview from the Materials Science and Engineering Department

New Engineering Program Aims to Attract the Most Talented Entrepreneurs to Connecticut

Dr. Mei Wei
Dr. Mei Wei

In a push to attract highly talented entrepreneurs from around the world to the state of Connecticut, UConn is launching a new Master’s of Engineering in Global Entrepreneurship, the first engineering-focused entrepreneurial graduate degree in the state.

The new master’s degree program, a partnership between the UConn Schools of Engineering and Business, Trinity College, and the University of New Haven, is intended to create a nurturing ecosystem for a profession that sees 90 percent of start-ups fold. It will enable novice entrepreneurs to learn best practices, receive mentorship from veteran entrepreneurs, and be set up for success.

“This program, and its related initiatives, will be a major step towards bringing in the best and the brightest from all over the world, giving them the tools they need, and turning them into major entrepreneurial advocates for the state of Connecticut,” says Associate Dean of Engineering Dr. Mei Wei. “If we can bring them in early, train them, and open up doors toward commercialization, then we can literally help create start-ups from scratch, and help them to grow roots in this state.”

Read the full UConn Today story.

New Degree Program Will Bring Skilled Workforce to Connecticut’s Energy Sector

UConn Campus
Aerial view of UConn campus.

Energy employment continues to grow in Connecticut. But hiring managers say they are struggling to find a workforce skilled in advanced renewable energy technologies, and the state’s flagship university is responding. A news story from Energy News Network brings attention to the issue.

“Connecticut has been behind in supporting our needs,” said Sridhar Kanuri, vice president of research and engineering at Doosan Fuel Cell America, based in a suburb of Hartford. Doosan is wooing graduates from the University of Massachusetts — which offers an energy engineering program with option tracks in renewable energy — and engineering schools from the West Coast, whose students bring skills in managing new technologies in the green space.

The University of Connecticut this fall will expand its newly-launched program to train working professionals in implementing clean technologies across industry verticals. Earlier this year, UConn kicked off its new, two-year Master of Science in Advanced Manufacturing for Energy Systems degree with a $1.25 million federal grant from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Although we target the energy industry, the skills that we intend to develop will be useful in any industry, especially in product development and manufacturing,” said Dr. Ugur Pasaogullari, a professor at UConn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering [and IMS member] who is heading the program.

Read the full Energy News Network story.

IMS Welcomes Dr. J. Nathan Hohman

Dr J. Nathan Hohman
Dr. J. Nathan Hohman

Dr. J. Nathan Hohman (Nate) has joined the Institute of Materials Science as a resident faculty member from the Chemistry Department. Dr. Hohman, began his graduate work at Penn State University and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles advised by Dr. Paul Weiss. He completed his postdoctoral research with Dr. Nicholas Melosh at Stanford University. Most recently, Dr. Hohman was employed at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Hohman’s research interests include surface science, nanomaterials, chemical patterning, and many other areas.

IMS Director Dr. Steven Suib, expressed his thanks to the hiring committee which included Drs. Rainer Hebert (Chair), Andrei Alexandrescu. Baki Cetegen, Martin Han, Jie He, Linnaea Ostroff, and Luyi Sun. He also expressed gratitude for the support of Provost John Elliott, Vice President for Research Radenka Maric, Dean Davita Glasberg of CLAS, and Chemistry Department Head Christian Bruckner.