THIRD-YEAR MATERIALS SCIENCE & ENGINEERING STUDENT
I really knew I wanted to do engineering. When I visited UCLA, everybody was happy, everybody was smiling.
After I was accepted, the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED) reached out to me. That gave me a family even before I arrived on campus.
My freshman year we got tours of the labs. I met Erin, a graduate student in the materials department who is now my graduate student advisor. She was giving the tour wearing a Wookiee costume because it was Halloween!
You can’t find many schools that give freshmen an opportunity to work in the lab. But as a freshman Erin helped me get a Research Intensive Series in Engineering for Underrepresented Populations (RISEUP) paid internship through CEED to work in a super cool lab at UCLA.
I worked in the artificial muscle group on campus, in the soft materials research laboratory. We were synthesizing and testing polymers with ultraviolet responsive changes in stiffness to be used
as a grasping mechanism for delicate objects – like a strawberry – for use in humanoid robotics.
Because of my research experience with polymers, I was referred for an internship at Aerospace Corporation in the Space Materials Laboratory. I came in brand-new, and I remember thinking I didn’t know what to expect.
Now I’m working on characterizing the effects of radiation on foam core composite structures for use on satellites. I was the project lead as a sophomore. My supervisor said, “You report back to me, but you’re the point of contact for this project.”
In the engineering school, we’re all pretty competitive, but we’re all here to help each other too. People actually talk to each other. They communicate. The best part is all the connections I’ve made and the people I’ve met.
When i visited universities, I asked, “Where do your students go to work after they complete their degree in materials science?” They said mostly in california. It’s a space and technology hub.