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.

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.



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.



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.

Supply Chain Management Course Offered for Fall 2021

For the last several years, in the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program, more and more of our graduates are finding jobs related to supply chain management. With the evolving nature of manufacturing and industry in the United States, it’s really no wonder.

Supply chain management is defined as the process of managing the movement of goods and services from suppliers, as raw materials, and to end users, as finished goods, in an efficient and effective way. Careers in supply chain management can take the role of sourcing, negotiating, contracting, purchasing, logistics, product design and development, inventory control, distribution and more.

The world is getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean that managing the supply chain for manufacturers is getting any easier. In fact, while the world has become more and more accessible with parts of the supply chain traveling around the world in record time, we know it is necessary to produce graduates ready to enter manufacturing in this field, and to bring with them the skills and the creativity needed to expedite the segments of production and access to supplies.

That is why, Dr. Calvert, professor in the School of Business and the co-director of MEM, is developing a course for students interested in supply chain management as a career.

“This course will examine the supply chain from a practical perspective.” Calvert said. “Class time will focus on active discussions and case analysis over the lecture format.”

The topics, including sales, materials management, logistics, and transportation, and will include real-world examples from the professor’s own professional experience.

In addition, external experts such as former MEM and School of Business students, now employed at Unilever, will discuss how supply chain management is performed at their company. Other guest lecturers in the field will include an independent consultant with more than 30-years of experience in the field.

Supply Chain Management, OPIM 4895, will be offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 12:15 pm.

Supply chain management is an exciting business and engineering field, perfect for MEM students, as well as other engineering and business students as they consider the future of manufacturing leadership in the United States.

Flyer promoting Supply Chain Management Course OPIM 4895 (Fall 2021)

Logan Miller Named 2021 MEM Top Dog

Logan Miller, a Somers, Connecticut resident and University of Connecticut senior was awarded the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing Top Dog Award for 2021 for his academic achievement as well as his participation and commitment to the MEM program.

Each year the MEM Society, co-directors and staff work together to select the student who best represents and contributes to the MEM program. This student is evaluated based on criteria such as willingness to help other MEM students, volunteering at open houses and other MEM events, participation in the MEM Society, their reputation for treating students, faculty and staff with respect, and his or her positive demeanor, good character and ability to be a role model for other MEM students. It’s a high bar worthy of the honor of Top Dog.

What does it mean to be Top Dog of MEM? Each year the MEM Society, co-directors and staff work together to select the student who best represents and contributes to the MEM program. This student is evaluated based on criteria such as willingness to help other MEM students, volunteering at open houses and other MEM events, participation in the MEM Society, their reputation for treating students, faculty and staff with respect, and his or her positive demeanor, good character and ability to be a role model for other MEM students. It’s a high bar worthy of the honor of Top Dog. This year, our 2021 Top Dog Award is going to graduating senior, Logan Miller. Logan Miller portrays all of these qualities, always representing the MEM program with enthusiasm, consideration and integrity. He has served for two years at the MEM Lab Manager, assisting students with lab questions and working hard to make sure it was a place all students felt welcome and supported. When COVID-19 struck, he coordinated and implemented lab safety plans and used the time to train next year’s lab manager, reorganize the lab and help think through ways MEM can be even better for future students. He also served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant during his Junior Year for the MEM 2212 course, spent time studying abroad, served as the Treasurer for the MEM Society, interned at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, achieved a high level of academic excellence, volunteered at every MEM open house where he answered questions and shared his experience with new prospects, and has been enrolled in the MS-BAPM 4+1 program. Logan Miller is certainly the 2021 MEM Top Dog! We are very proud of his accomplishments and thankful for his contributions. We know that even though Logan is going onto greater things after this May, that he will continue to contribute to the future success of MEM in meaningful ways.Miller portrays all of these qualities, having always represented the MEM program with enthusiasm, consideration and integrity. He served for two years at the MEM Lab Manager, assisting students with lab questions and working hard to make sure it was a place all students felt welcome and supported. When COVID-19 struck, he coordinated and implemented lab safety plans and used the time to train next year’s lab manager, reorganize the lab and help think through ways MEM can be even better for future students.

He also served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant during his junior year for the MEM 2212 course, spent time studying abroad, served as the Treasurer for the MEM Society, interned at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, achieved a high level of academic excellence, volunteered at every MEM open house where he answered questions and shared his experience with new prospects, and has been enrolled in the MS-BAPM 4+1 program.

“Logan was not only able to excel academically, but also outside of the classroom,” said Professor Craig Calvert, co-director of the MEM program and Senior Design instructor. “He has been a consistent source of assistance to the MEM program and his peers through his lab manager position and his involvement in the MEM student society. My experience with him in his senior design project shows that he will do great things in the future.”

Miller, who graduated May 2021 from UConn with his Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Engineering for Manufacturing from both the School of Business and the School of Engineering jointly, plans to go on to complete his Master of Science degree in Business Analytics and Project Management at the UConn School of Business. He began working toward the MS-BAPM program during his undergraduate studies as part of a 4+1 program with the School of Business and MEM.