Prospective student? Three questions on student life with engineering ambassador Melody Young

Mar 21, 2018

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

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Melody Young is a fourth-year materials engineering student and is one of the school’s 35 Engineering Ambassadors. The ambassadors are current students who introduce prospective students and their parents to the UCLA and the engineering school. They lead prospective Bruins on a South Campus tour, and give information on majors, clubs, student life, and career opportunities available at the university. Through the end of fall quarter 2017, the ambassadors have led more than 130 tours. In addition to her role as an ambassadors, Young is involved with the Materials Research Society student  group and is an undergraduate research student in Professor Qibing Pei’s Soft Materials Research Laboratory, where she is working on enhancing the properties of a polymer.

As an Engineering Ambassador, what are the most common questions that prospective students ask you, and what do you tell them? 

There are a few common questions on class size, enrollment and research opportunities. For class size, I usually tell them lower division classes are larger with 100 to 150 people, but there are smaller sections that exist through office hours and discussion sections. Upper division classes tend to get smaller, depending on the major.

On enrollment, they ask if they can get the classes they need and graduate on time. I tell them yes. One of the reasons is because of the ECR (enrollment consideration request) forms. If enough people state they need a certain class through an interest form, counselors will open up another section or make room in an existing one. For upper division classes, I haven’t had any problems getting the necessary classes.

For research, the questions are on how easily accessible and attainable they are. My answer is that they are very accessible as we are a research-driven school, but the student must be very proactive in reaching out and following up with professors or graduate students.

With all these academic concerns, students also like to bring up the question of an engineering student’s social life. To this question, my response is, “yes,” engineers can have a social life at UCLA and join sports clubs, fraternities or sororities, and other organizations. The most important things is to have proper time management skills.

What about their parents? What is a common question that they may have and what do you say?

The most common questions are about career opportunities. During the tour, I talk about how there are a lot of career opportunities at UCLA. Whether it’s the big career fairs in fall and winter quarters, with more than 100-plus companies attending, or smaller fairs hosted by different engineering organizations, students can attend any of these fairs and have the chance to speak with recruiters and land an internship. In addition to these fairs, the Career Center and clubs on campus will also host various info-sessions that will allow students to network with company representatives.

As a fourth-year student, I’ve really enjoyed my time here at UCLA because of the people I have become friends with and the clubs I am involved in. Engineering is a tough major, but going through this major with peers who share the same dedication and ambition enriched my undergraduate experience at UCLA. Since this is a large university, it is reassuring to have a tight-knit community within my major to allow me to forge meaningful relationships. As for the clubs on campus, it is rewarding to hold leadership positions and host events for other students because I am able to mentor the underclassmen since I can empathize with their challenges.

You’re also been doing undergraduate research. Can you describe what you’ve been doing?

My research involves enhancing the electrocaloric and pyroelectric properties of a type of ferroelectric polymer. These are polymers that can be polarized under electric fields, and in turn, interesting properties like pyroelectric and electrocaloric effects can be seen. Electrocaloric materials can change temperatures based on voltage input, while pyroelectric materials can generate voltage based on temperature changes. Our group finds better electrodes, additives, and processing techniques to improve the properties of this material. In the future, we hope to utilize this versatile material for cooling-heating or energy generation applications.

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