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Lauren Bowling’s long-standing fascination for chemistry is what brought her to Michigan Technological University (MTU). She began her journey at the university as a general engineering major and during introductory courses, she grew to realise her passions would be best nurtured in a department that focused more on a material’s chemistry and composition, and less on its processing.

After reaching out to MTU’s Career Services centre, Bowling was put in contact with several different engineering departments. She found exactly the course she was looking for at the school’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). Today when she encounters uncertain engineering majors who share a similar passion for chemistry, she encourages them to find their place where she found hers.

Michigan Technological University’s MSE department prepares students to create and innovate products that make a direct impact on everyday life, with many opportunities to discover and evolve along the way. Through internships, Bowling has helped develop a cryogenic Rockwell C hardness testing procedure that determined performance characteristics of bulk metallic glass alloys at their service temperatures. She was also given the rewarding task of interviewing several notable scientists to learn about their work and its possible applications to inflatable lunar habitats for the NASA Artemis programme.

“MSE students get lab experience as early as their second class, and when applying for internships in my sophomore year, I was able to put a lot of lab experience on my resume. Employers were surprised that I already had experience in fundamental MSE characterisation techniques. This gave me an advantage over applicants from other colleges, and was why I was selected for a highly competitive internship that summer,” Bowling shares.

For Michael Gazdecki, all it took were the course’s detailed teachings on biomaterials to clinch switching his major from biomedical engineering to materials science back in his second year.

“Since then, I’ve been hooked,” he says. “The focus on using applied chemistry and materials science to solve both everyday and technologically advancing problems is everything I had hoped for, and the incredible variety of engineering materials will keep me interested for the rest of my career.”

Gazdecki is now in his fifth year and is currently working on his senior project that is focused on developing a new aluminum alloy for use in the welding industry. He believes his findings will be significant and will ultimately help create a better product in terms of composition properties and processing needs.

Over the years, Gazdecki has participated in several Consumer Product Challenges that have been held on campus, where students prototype and pitch new consumer product ideas using items supplied by corporate sponsors. He credits his knowledgeable professors, who are aware of the ins and outs of the materials they teach, for giving him the confidence to innovate. Through group projects, assignments and hands-on lessons, the college senior gained the skills he needed to excel in the professional, global engineering experiences he’s had a chance to be a part of.

Through one of the university’s many study abroad programmes, Gazdecki spent a semester studying at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, gaining global perspective as he developed more MSE knowledge.

“Several of my MSE professors were very supportive of my endeavour to study abroad. Some of them wrote letters of recommendation for me, and my advisor was instrumental in getting my courses aligned so that I could study abroad stress-free!”, adds Michael.

Opportunities like these, a strong reputation within the engineering community, small class sizes, and access to the outdoors made Amberlee Haselhuhn certain in her decision to spend ten years of her academic career at Michigan Tech. Two degrees and a Ph.D. later, she is now a senior researcher at General Motors, where she applies the fundamentals of material science and engineering to the welding and joining of dissimilar metals for automotive body lightweighting.

Four years deep in her successful career, Haselhuhn still travels to Houghton and the campus grounds of Michigan Tech on the shores of Lake Superior to reminisce and catch the feeling of “returning home.” It’s the first place she felt like she truly fit in, it’s where she discovered and pursued her passions — it was even where she met her spouse.

“Michigan Tech is surrounded by so many natural resources which makes it easy to go from the classroom to the trails, water, golf course, or ski hill any day of the week. Since winter can last nine months or longer and comes with a whopping 300+ inches of snow some years, I wouldn’t exactly call campus “warm,” but it certainly is welcoming,” she shares.

Bowling, Gazdecki and Haselhuhn are at different points of their academic and professional careers and all share the same enthusiasm for their university’s offerings that “open doors to new work, networking, mentoring and outreach opportunities.”

If you are ready to follow in their footsteps, explore a wide variety of materials, and work at the forefront of technology, learn more about Michigan Technological University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering here today.

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