Author: Mariotti, Sharon

Chicago Woman Comes to MEM to Launch her Future in Wearable Design

Alexa Boden ChinatownChicagoThe University of Connecticut being a state university doesn’t stop students from coming from around the world or across the country. Alexa Boden, currently a junior in Management and Engineering for Manufacturing came to UConn from Chicago, Illinois and brought her own goals and ideals with her.

“I moved to Chicago in eighth grade and lived in Singapore before then,” Boden said. “My parents and family are from the northeast, so I spent a lot of summers over here and knew I wanted to go to college somewhere on the east coast.”

While Boden considered both University of Connecticut and University of Rhode Island, she knew UConn would be her home as soon as she learned about the MEM program.

“I have always been interested in business and engineering,” she said. “I like problem solving. I like design, but I like thinking about the consumer too.”

Initially she was considering an engineering undergraduate degree and a one year master’s degree in business following that, but when she discovered she could get an undergraduate degree that combined both business and engineering at once, she felt it was the perfect fit.

Spring Break her senior year in high school, she toured UConn and paid her deposit the next day.

“It was maybe a little spur of the moment,” she said, “but it felt like the right decision. I wasn’t stressed about college applications, which is not my normal personality, but I had good grades, test scores and a bunch of activities. I just knew there wasn’t a bad choice because I was interested in both programs.”

Boden says she is fortunate that even though she is far from family, she has close relatives not too far away. She also keeps in touch with her family with FaceTime and says she is fortunate her parents book her plane tickets to come home a few times a year.

“I know I am going to see them in a few weeks which is great,” Boden said.

Boden said her parents also grew up in the northeast, so she was familiar with the culture here already and that it felt familiar, like home.

“I really like the northeast. It is really pretty and the states are smaller so you can travel around, take trips into New York City, take trains or drive other places. It is just much more convenient,” Boden continued. “I will probably stay in the East Coast to work, if I stay in the U.S., but ideally I would like to get a job internationally – probably something related to design, specifically wearable design.”

Boden said she is looking forward to a career related to design, specifically wearable design, and focus on sustainability and how the design interacts with the wearer. She explained this could mean anything from a prosthetic, diabetes technology or an apple watch.

“I enjoy the people aspect of creating something. I want to understand who is using it, what they are using it for, what the company goals are,” she said. “As a young person I want to think about designs that are useful and aren’t going to harm our planet even more.”

She explained that in high school she had the chance to take engineering classes and she did her capstone course with Project Lead the Way. “There was a girl who was born with only part of one of her arms. It stopped at her elbow, but she wanted to play the recorder so she needed both hands. We wanted to design a prosthetic for her that would help her achieve her goal, but also would be something she was proud to wear,” Boden said. “We made these adaptable pieces that connected to a bracelet. She was a little girl and wouldn’t want to wear something boring and gray, so we gave her pink and purple and sparkles and her favorite dog.”

MEM and OPIM Partner on Supply Chain Case Competition

Supply Chain Competition UConn

Last month, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing and Operations and Information Management partnered with Unilever to bring students a Supply Chain Case Competition. Eleven teams of three students each competed to develop a plan to resolve a mock supply chain issue for Unilever’s brand Lipton and their green tea product.

Students were given a challenge with some background information, and two weeks to develop a comprehensive plan to solve the problem. In this case, the problem was procuring an organic green tea from a new supplier in Vietnam as the first organic green tea in the Lipton product range, and operating in line with the company’s guiding principles of safety, quality and operating efficiency. Students were also given Unilever company values of improving health and well-being, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing livelihoods, as well as references to the company’s sustainable living goals. The plans they suggested had to factor in these sometimes competing goals as they prepared and presented their strategy. Data on supply chain and sourcing, green tea facts, as well as product consumption and demand were also given to the teams to take into consideration.

Teams made their presentations in front of a panel of judges including faculty from the School of Business, the School of Engineering, and Unilever supply chain representatives. After their presentations, the judges were able to ask them questions to further clarify and challenge the students’ ideas.

Luca Mastrogiacomo, junior and a Management Engineering for Manufacturing major, says he really appreciated the opportunity to see how supply chain problems look in real world settings. “It showed why supply chain is important because of how interconnected it is with all areas of a business and how a supplier relationship is so much more than just transactional,” he said. “It was very fulfilling to me to be able to actually apply what I’ve been learning in class to a real business problem.”

The case competition served as part of the Supply Chain Management course taught by Dr. Craig Calvert. Students in the supply chain course were required to participate and provide a report following it for the class, while additional students joined from other engineering and business school majors because they were eager to showcase their critical business skills and win coveted scholarships associated with the first, second and third place winning teams.

The breadth of majors found among team members was also beneficial. Students said they found extra value in working with other students on a team beyond their own major. “It was fun because I was able to do it with some of my friends from the supply chain class,” said Paige Lombardi, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing senior, “…since Chloe is an MIS major and Liz and I are MEM majors, we were able to see how the two different majors interpreted the case differently. The case study was beneficial to me because it allowed me to use the knowledge from my internship experience as well as what I have learned in my supply chain class with Professor Calvert this semester and apply it to a real-world case study.”

Top Three Teams

  • First place was awarded to Team Blue, a team consisting of Cara Tran, Biomedical Engineering senior; Prabhas KC, Economics senior; and Alexander Kim, Finance senior.
  • Second place was award to team Supply Chain Reign including Elizabeth Downey, MEM senior; Paige Lombardi, MEM senior; and Chloe Sainsbury, MIS senior.
  • Third place was awarded to Andrew Warshavsky, MIS senior; Luca Mastrogiacomo, MEM senior; and Jacob Patterson, MEM senior.

 

Tech High School Grads Should Consider MEM

Jonathan Varga MEM Junior, Jonathan Varga, joined MEM the spring of his sophomore year after entering UConn as an ACES student; however, he always knew he would choose Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) as his major. Graduating valedictorian of his high school, Harvard H. Ellis Technical High School in Danielson, Connecticut, Varga knew he wanted to work in manufacturing and used the unique opportunity that technical high school provided him to prepare him for a degree program.

While at Ellis Tech, Varga studied Precision Machining Technology and gained critical manufacturing machining experience while still a high school student.

The Precision Machining Technology track at Ellis Technical High School prepares students for immediate employment, earning industry credentials and preparing students for entry into the workforce, apprenticeship programs or admission into a two- or four-year college. Students take academic courses as well as career and technical courses in rotating cycles. As a result, Varga gained an enormous amount of hands-on technical experience that most other high school students do not have.

At Ellis Tech students have the opportunity to start working in a manufacturing precision matching role while still in high school. When Varga was 16, he began his experience in manufacturing at Westminster Tool in Plainfield, Connecticut. There, he learned the ropes of the industry while he was in 10th grade at Ellis Tech.

In this role at Westminster Tool, he worked with a mentor and had the opportunity to express interest in learning new things, work with engineers and machinists, and gain more practical manufacturing experience. Varga started as a CNC machinist and got experience in the toolmaking, molding, and engineering departments, while learning more about many machining and manufacturing processes.

Even though he knew he wanted to pursue manufacturing as a career, and was prepared to enter the workforce right out of high school, he was confident that he wanted to go to college. When he graduated top of his class he was offered scholarships at several universities, including University of Connecticut. In the end, UConn’s MEM program, with the unique opportunity to learn both the business and engineering side of manufacturing made it an easy choice for him to attend UConn.

While UConn and MEM don’t see too many graduates from technical high schools, it is clear that students from manufacturing and machining technical programs are well prepared and capable of succeeding in an Engineering program like MEM.

Dr. Craig Calvert, assistant professor in residence in Operations and Information Management, and co-director of the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program sees this as a positive opportunity for Connecticut manufacturing.

“It is exciting to see that there are dedicated programs like this at the lower educational levels,” Calvert said. “It exposes kids to opportunities that they might not have in a traditional education. Connecticut has a strong manufacturing base with United Technologies and General Dynamics along with all the small businesses that support these larger corporations. Jon is positioned to succeed at any of these and make a big impact upon graduation.”

Varga explains that some courses were very familiar to him, such as Introduction to Manufacturing Systems and the related lab, “I came in ahead of the game in processes,” he said. “Courses like MEM 2211 and 2212 were easy for me since I already had so much experience working with CNC and plastic injection molding. However, I am still challenged in other courses, in topics that require a lot of technical writing or advanced math.”

Varga still works for Westminster Tool while he is an excellent performing student at UConn. He has built a good working relationship with the management there and really enjoys the work. “In the future I plan to stay in the manufacturing industry, in the medical or defense sectors. The level of challenging work in those fields really interests me.”

Varga says he would love to see more technical high school students consider degrees in Engineering or majors like MEM. “A lot of technical high school graduates don’t really think about getting a 4-year degree after graduating, because they don’t see how valuable their existing skills can be when transferred to a degree, but with a program like MEM your technical skills and management ability can really be taken to the next level.”

Management and Engineering for Manufacturing is a four year undergraduate degree program at the University of Connecticut. It is a joint degree between the School of Business and the School of Engineering. MEM students take courses to meet criteria in both schools, developing management skills and engineering skills for today’s technical industries. MEM graduates work in fields such as design engineering, manufacturing engineering, continuous improvement engineering, quality control engineering, project management, supply chain management, and logistics and operations management, as well as countless others.

Scholarships Available for UConn Engineering Students

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Did you know that 13% of science and engineering positions are occupied by people who come from diverse and underrepresented populations or that 29% of science and engineering positions are occupied by women?

We can improve those numbers. As the philanthropic arm of SME, an internationally recognized nonprofit organization serving the manufacturing industry, the SME Education Foundation supports students by annually awarding millions of dollars in scholarships to graduating high school seniors, college undergraduates and graduate students pursuing degrees in engineering or manufacturing.

Now is your time to make a difference. Learn more about scholarship opportunities: https://campaigns.smeef.org/31Cz9At4G11j

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

MEM Junior Prepares for Grad School as a McNair Scholar

Each year, highly motivated UConn undergraduate students can participate in two opportunities within a special program, called The McNair Scholars Program. This program prepares students for graduate studies in science, technology, engineering and math. One program is a fall semester research apprenticeship for students to apply for during their 1st or 2nd year and participate the following fall, and the other is a lengthier program for 2nd and 3rd year students to apply for to evolve into independent researchers and be immersed, year-round, in graduate school preparation including a 2 month fully-funded summer component.

As part of UConn’s TRIO programs, both McNair opportunities are open to low-income, first-generation college students or those from populations underrepresented in STEM graduate fields who are seeking to pursue a graduate degree, such as M.S. or Ph.D.

Interested students apply to the program at two different parts of the year; for 1st and 2nd year students interested in the apprenticeship, applications are due each February, and for 2nd and 3rd year students interested in the robust, full McNair Scholar experience, applications are due each October.  When they are accepted, the McNair Scholars are paired with faculty mentors for academic enrichment, research, and internships.

Joshua Hoang, UConn MEM Class of 2023 was accepted as a McNair Fellow apprentice for this fall and is currently working on a research project with Dr. Calvert in the School of Business.

“I heard about it through an email and wanted some kind of experience [to start on] that summer,” Hoang said. “I hadn’t gotten an internship and had heard getting research experience could be good as well.” While at first Hoang was just trying to strengthen his resume, he found he really learned a lot, gained some important research experience and is now considering graduate school.

“This program is really geared to prepare students for graduate school, or to help students decide if grad school might be a fit for them,” he said. “I hadn’t really considered grad school before, but I definitely am considering it now.”

Hoang is working with Dr. Craig Calvert on a project to model the supply chain of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Cobalt from there is used in cell phones and electric cars, so if we didn’t have cobalt there would be a lot of things we would not have that we use every day,” Hoang explained.

He went on to explain that he has been learning a little Monte Carlo simulation, as well as some Python on the side, due to the coding elements and the nature of the research. He also said he had the chance to do a little bit of analytics and apply some of what he has learned in classes.

McNair Scholars and Fellows also participate in workshops and seminars led by Program Coordinator, Dr. Renee Gilberti, McNair alumni, and graduate students to also have as additional mentors, and conferences designed to help them secure admission to doctoral programs and obtain financial resources for graduate study.

“The biggest takeaway for me, was having the chance to learn how to write a scientific paper, like a research paper, how to format it… I had no experience at all going into this, and it was overwhelming at first, but [Dr. Calvert] walked me through it,” Hoang said. During the course the McNair Fellow apprentices take together for the fall semester, the students also learn step-by-step how to build a research paper, become critical thinkers, seek summer internships, and about applying to be McNair Scholars.

Hoang recommends this program to anyone considering grad school even a little bit. While it is an unpaid, one-semester commitment as an apprentice, students have the option to reapply for a longer duration as a Scholar and gain even more experience and training to be a competitive grad school applicant.

“Beyond the research, it was great to also just be able to ask Dr. Calvert questions about my career and education. He really goes out of his way to be helpful, and I am sure all the mentors are that way.”

Should You Apply?

If you are among the first generation in your family to attend a 4-year college AND meet the low-income guidelines on the application chart based on your family size (regardless of your racial or ethnic identity), and/or self-identify as an underrepresented racial or ethnic group as listed on the application, you are eligible for McNair opportunities.

This fall 2021 semester, the McNair program is recruiting 2nd and 3rd year students wanting to pursue undergraduate research in a STEM discipline who are curious to learn more about graduate school preparation and career options to be a McNair Scholars.

Benefits of the program include conducting research during the academic semesters with an optional, fully-funded summer program under the guidance of a faculty mentor; opportunities to present and publish; assistance with the graduate school application process; professional conferences; workshops and courses to prepare students for graduate study, and a close mentoring experience with the McNair Scholars Program Coordinator and a faculty advisor.

Applications must be submitted by Thursday, October 14 before 12 noon, and two recommendations are due by October 21.

To apply, applicants should click on the SCHOLAR button on the linked application, and then also promptly email Dr. Renee at renee.gilberti@uconn.edu to state your intention to apply and coordinate a virtual interview session. Note, if you are a 1st or 2nd year student, applications for the fall 2022 semester STEM McNair apprenticeship will open in January 2022. For more information, contact Dr. Renee Gilberti.

Apply

 

Landing an Internship on the Production Floor – Archana Velathaupillai Shares Her Experience

Getting an internship is something every MEM student thinks about at some point during their undergraduate career. It can help you gain professional experience, apply concepts you’ve learned and develop professional connections that can help you navigate your future career options. Archana Velathaupillai, MEM junior, had the opportunity to work for 12 weeks as a Manufacturing Engineering Intern with Otis Elevator at their manufacturing plant in Florence, South Carolina.

Archana Velathaupillai on the Production Floor at Otis
Archana Velathaupillai performing an internal ISO 9001 audit at Otis Elevator’s plant in South Carolina.

“This was a really unique internship because most of the time interns don’t get to really work on the production floor, but this internship gave me that chance,” Archana said.

Archana had the chance to work in operations on the production floor at Otis where she did time studies on production lines, 5S implementation on the production floor, improved standard work procedures, conducted internal ISO 9001 audits on specific production lines and participated on continuous improvement initiatives. She also spent time observing and seeing how the concepts she has learned in classes at UConn are applied in a real world setting. She enjoyed getting to talk to people in various areas within the manufacturing operation, including supply chain, engineering, and operations which helped her expand her network and career exposure, as she refined her ideas of jobs she would and would not enjoy in her future.

“At first I wasn’t really comfortable, but as time went on, I got better at networking and scheduled appointments in other areas,” Archana said. “As a result, I was able to expand my network, get more familiar with other areas and really refine what kinds of jobs I might want. I learned there were some roles that didn’t suit me and others I may want to try to gain experience in during a future internship.”

Archana says she landed this internship in the traditional way. She attended career fairs, had her resume reviewed by the Center for Career Development, and took advantage of mock interviews. At a career fair, she met and talked with the recruiter from Otis and made sure she maintained contact afterward.

Associate Professor Awarded Grant for Manufacturing Sustainability

Liang ZhangDr. Liang Zhang, Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and MEM Faculty member, was recently awarded a grant that could change the face of Connecticut manufacturing. In a partnership between the University of Connecticut and the University of New Haven, Dr. Zhang will be leading the UConn team as they participate in a massive national research effort to help local manufacturers reduce their carbon footprint.

UConn Today has the full story. Click to read more.