3M, Caterpillar's mentorship crucial in readying MatSE seniors
3M, Caterpillar readying MatSE seniors
MatSE seniors get the chance to flex their materials science know-how and solve real-world problems with materials-based solutions in their Senior Design course. For two teams, the experience was even more enriching as they were mentored by industry leaders from 3M and Caterpillar.
Written by Emily Jankauski
URBANA, Ill. — Tomorrow doesn’t invent itself. MatSE seniors answer real-world problems with materials-based solutions in their Senior Design course. All students presented their findings during the annual presentation day held at the Campus Instructional Facility on May 5.
Each year, the capstone course has seniors working in teams to flex their materials science know-how by creatively riddling complex materials problems. This year, more than 40 projects were on display.
“Problem solving is what this course is all about,” course instructor Matt Goodman said. “It’s this mindset of curiosity about the world that they’re living in and that that they draw connections from either previous courses or experiences that ultimately create something of value.”
For two teams, the experience was even more enriching as they were able to partake in projects mentored by industry leaders from 3M and Caterpillar.
Matt Frey, 3M’s senior staff scientist and a MatSE alumnus, mentored MatSE undergrads Alexandru Grindeanu, Ye Lin, Alex Meindl, Eddie Oh and Akshay Subramani on their project looking at materials selection for advanced electrical materials for transmission lines.
Their favorite part? Being able to work hands-on with a commercially viable product.
“That’s definitely a huge experience that most undergraduate students do not get an opportunity to do,” Subramani said.
Frey’s mentorship also proved to be an unmatchable experience for the undergrads, helping them minimize the learning curve necessary for working in industry.
“Having someone like Matthew helps us and gives us the resources to tell us what’s viable, what’s working, what’s not,” Subramani said. “This minimizes that learning curve that we would have to spend a lot of time working on if we were to get hired by 3M, for example.”
Being able to come back to his alma mater is both “rewarding” and “fulfilling” to Frey, but it’s also imperative to 3M’s growth.
“It’s critical to 3M and other companies that we train the next generation of engineers and that they are well-grounded and have problem-solving skills and the basic science that they’ll need to apply in their careers,” Frey said. “It’s in our interest that your mission is successful here at the university.”
Mike Pershing, Caterpillar’s senior technical steward for heat treatment, mentored MatSE undergrads Atharva Atreya, Xianyang Chen, Tyler Ricks,
Vaanchit Srikumar and Eric Yang in a project furthering machine learning-assisted scanning electron microscope, or SEM, image segmentation.
Chen’s favorite part of the experience was simply the chance to solve new problems for industry leaders.
“This opens up a window for us to insert our knowledge and try to think about what’s the use of our knowledge,” Chen said. “This is quite important for our future career, because ultimately, all of these things we have done should be used to solve technical questions in this world, so this is like a chance for our first step.”
For Atreya, the opportunity to work with Caterpillar alone was a unique experience.
Pershing helped the students select the right materials and conduct quantitative analysis. He even helped “coach” the students on how to prep data and results for a meeting.
“Their guidance has been really supportive,” Atreya said. “We had weekly meetings with them throughout the semester. Just being able to work with a company and actually make a model that they’re going to use in their everyday analysis . . . it was pretty cool to be a part of that.”
That real-world experience is unlike any other for MatSE students, and in turn, so is the mentorship aspect for industry representatives.
“It’s a reminder that we have to collaborate as a team, not just within the company, but sometimes outside,” Pershing said. “Working with new students can bring a lot of value — not just in their development, which we’re happy to do — but also for us at Caterpillar.”
Share this story
This story was published June 14, 2023.