The Materials Research Society (MRS) UConn student chapter is a great resource for graduate students in the materials science and related disciplines. Being a member grants access to a large volume of journal article databases and monthly publications regarding the latest developments in the field. In addition, MRS allows for plenty of networking opportunities. The MRS Chapter, in conjunction with the undergraduate group UCMA, is planning a trip at the end of March to visit the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Graduate and undergraduate students will have the opportunity to see what working in a national lab is like and have a chance to network with the researchers at the facility. The most important networking event is the MRS Fall meeting in Boston. Members from the UConn student chapter regularly attend this annual meeting and present their research via short talks and posters. The fall meeting is a great way for students to network with other graduate students from around the world as well as with industry professionals and top researchers. Networking at the conference can lead to anything from making friends, collaborating with another group on a project, or even getting a job. Each year, prior to the conference, the UConn student chapter holds a meeting for practicing student presentations. The students present their research to an audience of their peers and receive important feedback for improving the presentation whether it is formatting visual elements, technical details or the flow of the talk itself. This not only gives more time to practice public speaking in general, but also the opportunity to prepare for answering some of the questions that may arise from the audience at the conference. As a result, our members are more confident and prepared in presenting their material at the conference, in job interviews, etc.
The MRS chapter at UConn is also involved in outreach activities. Getting young minds interested in the field of science and engineering is important for recruiting future materials scientists. MRS members regularly assist in the annual ASM Materials Camp hosted at UConn by the Hartford Chapter of ASM international. The camp is a one day program intended to encourage and excite younger people to pursue careers in materials science and engineering and related disciplines. High school sophomores, juniors and seniors are selected by their teachers to attend this one day camp. The selected students participate in various learning areas that demonstrate properties of materials and how materials are processed and engineered for desired performances. The MRS chapter provides graduate student volunteers to assist in all aspects of the camp. For example, last year MRS members showed hands on demonstrations of shape memory alloys, superconductivity, and the use of liquid nitrogen to explore the temperature dependent properties of materials. This year in particular the UConn MRS chapter will be presenting NanoDays demonstrations. Through a networking opportunity at this years MRS Fall meeting, our chapter was able to obtain a new demonstration kit from the Nanoscale Informal Science Education network (NISE) that includes a wide variety of hands-on demonstrations that focus on properties, current uses and recent developments of nanomaterials. The kit will help us present this subject matter in a way that is both entertaining and educational for all age groups. MRS members also regularly volunteer for engineering open house days where we promote the Chemical Materials and Biomolecular Engineering department to prospective students through informal discussions and demonstrations.
The MRS student chapter is a focal point for materials related students. The group also enjoys regular social gatherings such as international potluck lunches, summer softball and cookouts. Another social event is the bowling night that we organize at the MRS conference where students can relax and enjoy themselves after a long day of oral presentations and poster sessions.
In summary, the MRS Student Chapter at UConn serves to educate and recruit future scientists and engineers, as well as act as a support for current graduate students involved in the group through social events and resources available to the organization. Access to the databases make finding useful reference papers easier and meetings for practicing oral presentations are greatly appreciated by those looking to polish their skills. The networking opportunities lead to more materials for outreach, collaborations on research projects as well as future jobs.