Meet Rebecca Voss, she is a current senior in college. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Material Science and Engineering in May 2023 from the University of Pittsburgh.
How would you describe what you are studying to our readers?
I study various materials (think plastics, metals, ceramics, etc.) and how they perform based off different applications. I often describe material science as a combination of chemical engineering and mechanical engineering because we work with nano scales and macro scales. My concentration is in steel, so my classes have focused on steel manufacturing techniques and the different kinds of steel that can be made.
When did you first hear about material science and engineering? Were you introduced to it in school? And by whom? A teacher? A parent?
I first learned about material science engineering through an ASM International Camp in Materials Park, Ohio. My school used to promote different camps, so I applied and eventually was able to attend. This weeklong event introduced me to material science by allowing me to work on a team with other high school students on a failure analysis project (how and why something broke), try different analysis techniques like hardness testing and using an optical microscope, and have fun learning.
What do you like about studying material science and engineering?
I enjoy that I can make my degree what I want. Because we are surrounded by materials in our everyday life, there is so much opportunity to study what you like. In addition, I enjoy that material science has allowed me to combine both mechanical and chemical engineering in ways that meet my interests and goals.
What is your favorite part? Is it a certain class? A certain lab?
My favorite part is the hands-on aspect of my classes. One of my steel classes allowed me to use software to create a heat treatment plan to theoretically form the required phases in the sample. I then was able to use a furnace to test my hypothesis and work through obstacles along the way.
When you graduate, what do you hope to do with your degree? Go on for more schooling? Go to work?
I have accepted a position with Steel Dynamics as a metallurgist. (Metallurgist is a person who works with metal.)
How do you hope to make a difference in the world using your degree?
I hope to use the knowledge from school and future work to guide me in determining appropriate quality within manufactured products. By ensuring properties meet required specifications, I can hopefully prevent future material failures from harming people that interact with the material in their everyday life.
Did you participate in any clubs, groups or organizations in primary school that helped you decide on majoring in engineering? What clubs/groups did you participate in?
During primary school, I was involved with Carnegie Mellon’s C-MITES program. This program allowed me to expand my education beyond the classroom in a fun and unique way. I also frequently went to the Carnegie Science Center where I learned a lot about STEM and engineering.
What advice do you have for our readers who may want to become engineers one day?
I would encourage students to try new things, pick up a little project, and stay curious! It is in these ways that you can use your imagination and explore different topics within engineering to see what you are most interested in.
About the Author
Michelle Stark, P.E. is an electrical engineer design consultant at CDM Smith. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Norwich University and is a wife and mom of (4) wonderful children.