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Gaining an advantage in a materials world

Student organization provides wide-ranging experience in an expanding area of science and engineering

by | Jan 22, 2024 | Features, Students

Competitions that put materials science and engineering knowledge and skills to the test are among the hands-on learning experiences offered to members of Arizona State University’s chapter of the Material Advantage student organization. The group pictured is preparing for The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society’s National Bladesmithing Competition in Florida this coming spring. Pictured (from left to right) are Christopher Luper, a faculty associate in ASU’s School of Art, recent ASU art graduate Anne Sipos, and current materials science and engineering students Johnathan McGill, Carsen Cartledge and Isaac Rhoden. Photo courtesy of Material Advantage.

When the role of a specific type of engineer is central to fictional stories in books, movies or TV shows, the characters tend to be electrical, computer, mechanical, chemical or civil engineers.

If authors, screenwriters and scriptwriters looked at trends in today’s real engineering world, materials engineers might be sharing the spotlight in popular entertainment.

As members of Arizona State University’s Material Advantage student organization will tell you, materials scientists and engineers are increasingly involved when significant advances are shaping our lives for the better. Their contributions benefit us in our homes, workplaces and modes of transportation, and contribute to public infrastructure upgrades, medical services, communications systems, industry operations and much more.

Students in the materials science and engineering program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University,  proclaim work in their increasingly robust field promises not only to improve the performance of machines, tools and gadgets we use every day but also support environmental protection and sustainability endeavors around the world while expanding our ability to explore other worlds.

Multiple benefits of Material Advantage membership

“For students who want to go into science or engineering but aren’t certain what direction they want to take, our club is a good place to start,” says Miranda Gonzalez, who became president of ASU’s Material Advantage chapter at the start the fall 2023 semester.

“Materials science and engineering expertise has become more essential to so many different types of companies and more important in growing areas like aerospace and energy and nanotechnology,” Gonzalez says. “By getting involved in Material Advantage you can explore opportunities in many different careers.”

Membership in the organization is not limited only to materials science and engineering students. Gonzalez notes that students majoring in chemical, mechanical and biomedical engineering are among the ASU chapter’s current membership of more than 70 aspiring tech pioneers.

The organization’s current vice president, Tochukwu Anyigbo, and Carsen Cartledge, the community outreach leader, credit the chapter’s activities for enriching their experiences in preparation for engineering careers.

Anyigbo says the resume writing workshops and job interview training have been especially valuable. Cartledge says her various learning experiences in the student organization have made her confident in her decision to pursue a master’s degree in materials science and engineering.

Gonzalez, Anyigbo and Cartledge each note how first-year students who join Material Advantage benefit from the tutoring the group provides to help students make the transition from high school to college studies.

Another perk for dues-paying Material Advantage members is automatic membership in four other professional engineering-related societies: ASM International, the world’s largest association of materials-centric engineers and scientists; the American Ceramics Society; the Association for Iron and Steel; and TMS, also known as the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

Material Advantage members outside the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

A group of Arizona State University Material Advantage members recently toured the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. The students learned details about the lab’s inner workings and were informed about employment and internship opportunities. Pictured (from left to right) are students Isaac Rhoden, Nessa Hald, Ryan Jee, Damon Florez, Miranda Gonzalez, Gabriela De Los Reyes Castillo, Dante Borea, Gigi Jackson, Xavier Lujan Flores, and Austin Davis. Photo courtesy of Material Advantage

Connecting with industry materials engineering leaders

For the past two decades, Shahriar Anwar has been the faculty mentor for ASU’s Material Advantage chapter. He recently retired from his position as a senior research specialist in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy and director of the Materials Undergraduate Laboratory.

Under Anwar’s guidance, the organization has become a vibrant and multifaceted enterprise that students say is expanding the breadth of their educational experiences.

The chapter hosts on an annual Materials Bowl competition between ASU and University of Arizona students in which graduating seniors present their capstone projects to be judged by a panel of industry representatives. ASU took home the trophy in 2023.

The chapter has also showcased a Fun with Materials event at ASU’s annual Homecoming celebration and earned a Creative Use of Materials award in the 2023 TMS Bladesmithing Competition.

Material Advantage members have toured major industrial facilities where materials engineering work is done. They also have met and networked with engineers at some of these operations, including those at Honeywell, a major international corporation that is a leader in aerospace, building automation, performance materials and technologies, and business productivity solutions.

Providing professional and personal support

In addition, Material Advantage regularly provides students opportunities to network with representatives of various prominent companies and to participate in career skill-building sessions and peer-reviewed resume workshops.

The organization enables students to participate in a variety of Fulton Schools’ engineering community-building events, including longstanding traditions such as movie nights, Nintendo Super Smash Bros. gaming tournaments and end-of-year banquets.

Gonzalez, Anyigbo and Cartledge emphasize that Material Advantage is particularly distinctive for its efforts to help ensure the well-being of its members. They say when members of the group experience difficulties such as struggling with the demands of schoolwork, or other common challenges of student life, their fellow members often help them get counseling, tutoring or advice from others who have faced similar obstacles.

“Beyond all of us having similar professional interests and goals, I think we have a real sense of community,” Gonzalez says. “There will always be someone who can relate to whatever it is you are going through.”

Material Advantage student organization at annual Materials Bowl competition

Arizona State University’s Material Advantage student organization hosts an annual Materials Bowl competition against University of Arizona students. Teams present their materials science and engineering capstone projects to compete for a grand prize, the Materials Bowl Trophy, and bragging rights for a year until the next competition. Last year ASU teams took home the first-place and second-place trophies. Pictured (from left to right) are second-place team members Zane Green, Weston Preecs, Olivia Vilaboy and Roman DeCaro, followed by first-place team members Brian Ridenour, Emily Hagood, Emmie Benard, and Julia Greteman. All of the students graduated in 2023. Photo courtesy of Material Advantage

On the spring calendar

This spring semester students from ASU’s Material Advantage chapter will be representing ASU at the TMS Bladesmithing Competition in Florida March 3-7 during the annual TMS 2024 Annual Meeting & Exhibition, and in April will compete in the annual Materials Bowl competition against the members of the University of Arizona chapter.

The organization’s annual Materials Banquet is scheduled for the last day of final exams week. Throughout the semester, the chapter will also host social and fundraising events.

Information about upcoming Material Advantage events and meetings can be found on Instagram @asu.material.advantage or though Sun Devil Sync. The gatherings are open to all students.


About The Author

Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman is a science writer for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Before joining Arizona State University in 2006, Joe worked as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers and magazines dating back to the dawn of the age of the personal computer. He began his career while earning degrees in journalism and philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio. Media Contact: [email protected] | 480-965-8122 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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