Month: October 2021

Buffalo, New York Student Finds His Place at MEM

The University of Connecticut might be a favored institution of higher education in the state of Connecticut, but with the uniqueness of a program like Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM), it draws students well beyond state borders. One example of this is Jonathan Rucinski, UConn Senior and MEM major.

Jonathan RucinkskiThe Buffalo, New York resident said he came to UConn because of the MEM program and because there really isn’t anything quite like it anywhere else. While there are a few similar programs at one or two other universities, no other program balances both business and engineering quite like MEM.

Rucinski reflects that when he was in high school, his STEM background had him leaning toward an Engineering degree, but felt that Business had a strong appeal for him in spite of that. He found himself wondering whether he should focus on business or engineering in his college search process.

“I wanted to lean on engineering because I had mainly done science and STEM, but business interested me, so I did a search for programs that were engineering and incorporated some business,” Rucinski said. “They were mainly 4+1 programs, but I really wanted something I could do in 4 years.”

He doesn’t recall if he found the MEM program or whether it was his mom, but either way, he was immediately interested. “We came for a visit and it was exactly what I was looking for.”

“I thought it would be good to stand out from the pack and diversify myself for my resume and as an individual with a degree that was both business and engineering,” he continued. “With MEM you get the engineering skills, but can talk business and so you get to be a liaison to go between both sides in industry.”

He explained, “The other program was a little more involved on the engineering side and a little weaker on the business side. I wasn’t sure I wanted to lean that far into engineering. Then I visited and spoke to Professor Tang, and he told me about the jobs MEM students look for and how they go both ways, more into business or more into engineering.”

When he saw the benefits and the versatility of an MEM degree, he was sold.

Did anything surprise you?

Now that he is a senior in MEM, he says the one surprise is how his interests have evolved so much. “I didn’t realize I had such a passion for data analysis, but getting to do so much of that really sparked that interest and led me to apply for the MS-BAPM 4+1 program, in which I am now enrolled,” he said. “It has let me dive deeper into data analytics, especially business analytics, and I am really enjoying that.”

Being so far away from home was difficult for Rucinski, he explained. “I am really family oriented, so I still call home a lot, but the nice thing about this being a smaller program, is that you make friends fast because MEM students have a lot of interests in common and study and work together so much, so you really get the small feel with the benefits of a big university.”

What’s Next?

Rucinksi intends to finish his 4+1 program after completing his BS in MEM from both the School of Business and the School of Engineering. After that he said he is considering staying in the area for work since there is such a great network of manufacturing and industry with which MEM has a great relationship.



Dr. Xu – MEM Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Hongyi Xu might not look like your average university professor, and some of his students may have wondered if he was not the graduate teaching assistant for the course as opposed to the actual class professor, but don’t let his youthful appearance fool you. Dr. Xu is a qualified and highly skilled instructor for the Mechanical Engineering Department as well as for the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Hongi XuAfter earning his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University in 2014, he began his career in industry at the Ford Motor Company as a Research Engineer. While there he led and participated in a variety of research projects including passive safety, in which he worked to design structures to protect the occupant of a vehicle, structure optimization for vehicle lightweighting, Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) of carbon fiber composites, Lithium-only battery impact safety, fuel cell membrane analysis, and the design of mesostructured-structure systems for additive manufacturing.

After leaving Ford Motor Company, he joined the University of Connecticut as an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering. Here, he teaches two courses: MEM 3221 / ME 3295 Introduction to Products and Processes, as well as SE 5702 / ME 5702, a grad level course on Data Science for Materials and Manufacturing.

“I really like teaching [MEM 3221],” Xu said. “The interesting thing about this class is that every year we will finalize some project from a local business or manufacturer and get those real experiences.

He explains that this year, he is working with Connecticut Small Business Development Center to connect with small businesses and manufacturers in Connecticut.

“They propose an idea and we pick which ideas to work on so it closely relates to the course,” he said. “This year we are working with a company the manufactures baby cradles.”

“The 5702 course is also a lot of fun to teach,” Xu said. “It is a diverse student body including recent grads and seasoned engineers in industry, so there are a lot of differing opinions and thoughts on the same topic and the younger students really benefit from the experience that professionals bring as it relates to real world working styles.”

Dr. Xu Research

At UConn, his research focuses on developing design optimization and uncertainty quantification methods for the analysis and design of heterogeneous microstructural materials. His research interests also include Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) and data mining-enhanced multi-disciplinary optimization. He also collaborates with the MIT Battery Consortium and has two additional project proposals for which he awaiting funding from outside sources.

While in industry, Xu enjoyed the work life balance and the resources that were available he also has found aspects he loves about working at a university.

“I enjoyed working at Ford where there were a lot of resources and you can always find real world ways to test what you’re developing; however, working at UConn, I have a lot of freedom to work on projects that I want to work on. I am responsible for everything but also in charge of what research I choose, and that ability to shape my research based on my interests, and also getting to interact with students more, is a really nice benefit to university work,” he said.

When Dr. Xu is not working on his many research projects or teaching his courses at UConn, he enjoys playing soccer when he can find others to play with, and flower gardening, a hobby which he picked up during the closures in 2020 and 2021.

Allison Pfahler: Tips for Internship Success

We love hearing about our MEM student’s internship experiences and we love even more when we can share new openings with them. Last September Allison Pfahler received an email from MEM, along with the rest of MEM students, with details of a new internship opportunity at Niagara Bottling. This summer, she spent her summer working there as a manufacturing intern.

Niagara Bottling is a leading beverage manufacturer in the U.S., supplying major retailers across the nation.

When Allison saw the email from the MEM office, she knew she wanted to apply quickly because it aligned so well with her interests that she had developed in the MEM program. Soon, she found herself touring the plant and interviewing as a finalist for the position, and she knew it would be great fit.

“The people at Niagara are a large part of what makes the internship so special,” Allison said. “Everyone from the managers to the production operators were eager to meet the interns and help in any way they could. The plant was always a welcoming environment that encouraged asking questions and jumping in wherever you were interested.”

Allison went on to explain that after shadowing team members in each department, she was given the opportunity to choose which projects she wanted to work on for the summer.

“I picked up a project in the warehouse and was able to start it from the initial steps and implement it with the team in my last week,” she said. “Everyone helped me get the resources I needed to complete the project and taught me everything I needed to know.”

Throughout the summer, the company provided interns with resources to be successful such as professional development seminars and mentors at the plants. Allison was paired with an MEM alumnus who was able to give her advice on different projects and connect her with people and information that she needed to be successful throughout the summer.

Allison offers three key pieces of advice for future MEM interns, no matter where they intern.

  1. Ask questions – asking questions helped her understand the process better and led her to be more successful in what she was working on.
  2. Be available – being available and flexible put her in a position to be able to be used whenever needed
  3. Be flexible – in a fast paced environment such as Niagara, being flexible and jumping into situations where help was needed was the best way to learn