Why Materials?

Travis M. Nelson, CWI, CRI, Senior Consultant – Metallurgy & Welding, LTK Engineering Services, Ambler, PA

Travis NelsonI chose to major in MS&E when I was introduced to the disciple by Dr. Hertzberg and others, as part of the ENGR 95 course that were all required to take our Freshman year, in my case, in Autumn 1993.  It was the forensic aspect of it that really appealed to me – being able to look at a fracture surface or a worn out component and determine why it had failed – like Sherlock Holmes with a SEM! I have worked in a testing lab, at a small R&D firm, and now for a firm that consults with the rail industry.  Materials Science & Engineering turned out to be just what I was looking for.

Rebecca Bay, Materials Engineering, Quality & Technology Department, Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc., Monroeville, PA

Materials engineering seemed like the best combination of all the engineering skills I wanted to use.  We did hands-on work, got to understand the roots of problems, and use our creative thinking skills.  My Lehigh materials education gave me so many opportunities to explore cool manufacturing techniques and use some awesome technology.  I regret nothing and am excited for whatever else I get to do in my career in the future.

Currently, I am a materials engineer at Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc (BPMI) a prime contractor for the Navy.  We are located in Pittsburgh, PA and Schnectady, NY and we work on the nuclear systems in submarines and aircraft carriers.  BPMI is a procurement organization.  We buy the materials that are used to make reactor components and we also have cognizance over those components throughout their life cycle.  Materials engineers at BPMI do a variety of jobs, some of which include owning and revising military specification, visiting suppliers to witness materials processing, and working with component owners to address materials concerns.


Val Zanchuk, President, Graphicast, Inc., Jaffrey, NH

Val ZanchukI became interested in metallurgy (that’s what it was in the day J) through a neighbor. He was working for Philadelphia Electric and took a short course in metallurgy as part of a professional development program. I was 14 at the time, but he knew of my interest in science and technology, and thought it would be something I would enjoy studying. I got information from ASM on the profession and decided that’s what I wanted to do. This made my high school years very focused, and made college selection much easier – the college needed a metallurgical engineering major or I wasn’t interested. Luckily, another family friend was an executive with a local Philadelphia based pharmaceutical company that had hired Joe Libsch, former head of the department and VP of research, as a consultant. I got a personal tour of Lehigh from Prof. Libsch and that sealed the deal. I was also a very active musician and the band was a big draw for me as well.

My career started with Phelps Dodge Copper Products Corporation (now merged into another company). I moved from there to New Jersey Zinc Company (a former class tour site for metallurgy majors), and from there to Air Products and Chemicals. I was involved in process development and marketing at APCI for 13 years, working in foundries and powder metallurgy operations. I left APCI and moved to New Hampshire, where I joined a small company, TAFA, involved in thermal spraying equipment and materials. I eventually became president of TAFA, which we grew from a $6 million business to a $34 million business, selling it three times over 13 years. I left TAFA after the last acquisition and bought the controlling interest in a small foundry and machine shop, Graphicast, in Jaffrey, NH in 2001. Graphicast is a contract manufacturer, producing machined castings for about 70 different customers. I received my BS in Metallurgy and Materials Science in 1972 and my Master of Engineering in Metallurgy and Materials Engineering in 1980. I’m still working and having fun at 69. I plan to work well into my 70s.

Gabriel Ganot, Exponent, Principal Engineer, Materials & Corrosion Engineering, Menlo Park, CA

Gabriel GanotI quickly realized that no matter what any engineer conjured up on paper, those dreams would stay as such until they had the necessary material to use in their application. It seemed to me that there could be nothing more important than studying and understanding the actual "things" from which our engineered world is made!

I work at Exponent, an engineering and scientific consulting firm. For those of us involved with materials science and engineering, we often perform failure analysis of things that have failed in some fashion.

Michael H. Walmer, Electron Energy Corporation, Landisville, PA

When I came to Lehigh, I looked for courses related to magnets but did not find anything that specific.  What I did find at Lehigh was a fabulous faculty capable of providing a broad but deep understanding of a wide variety of engineering materials.  Also important was the focus on lab work, basic metallurgical processes, ethics and problem solving.  Based on the technical nature of our products, our production processes and the applications in which our products are used, Material Science & Engineering was the perfect major for me.

Sean Armstrong, Technical Sales Manager, Kurt J. Lesker Company, Jefferson Hills, PA

Sean ArmstrongI chose Materials Science because of the Intro to Engineering class freshman year.  The Materials Science demonstration and lab tour was the best.

Abigail Lawrence, Ph.D., Sr. Scientist, Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN

I chose materials science because I am fascinated by "what stuff is made out of" and the endless ways what we learn in MatSci can be applied. 

I work in Fridley, Minnesota. I'm in a corporate research group where we act as internal consultants for all of Medtronic's business units. My group focuses on materials, surface characterization, and numerical modeling. We do a combination of short term, critical to quality problems (ie. failure analysis) and longer-term technology platform development. I get my hands on all kinds of different products so I am never bored! I love working for a company where I can be certain the work I do will have a positive impact on people's lives.

Michael Grimes, Site Quality Lead – Liza Unity FPSO, ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd., Singapore

Michael GrimesI joined MS&E because it is a bit of a niche engineering field.  MS&E is an important field, but it is not as common of a degree as other engineering fields such as mechanical or civil.  I thought that having more of a specialized and unique engineering degree would allow for better job opportunities.   

Alexander Boys, Ph.D., Research Associate, University of Cambridge, UK

Alexander BoysI chose Materials Science & Engineering, because I wanted to design and build biomedical implants. Materials science was a great way to enter this field, as I was able to approach many of these problems from a direction less common among those in the biomedical community, consistent largely of biologists and physicians. I have now gone on to perform research in implant design and fabrication through my PhD in Materials Science & Engineering at Cornell University and my position at the University of Cambridge.

Laura (Limata) Hotchkiss, Manager, Director Management Office, Naval Nuclear Laboratory, Schenectady, NY

I liked chemistry and understanding how things were made. Plus the diversity, there were so many directions you could go and so many industries to end up in.

Jolene Doverspike, Hardware Engineering Director, Northrop Grumman, Baltimore, MD

I decided to major in Mat Sci after the hands-on demo showing how awesome and important understanding materials properties is.  I was instantly sold and never regretted it!

Sara Cossel, Honda of America Mfg., Inc., Anna, OH

It was because of the presentation that the MatSci Dept. held when I was a freshman engineering student – telling all of us about what a Materials Science Engineer did. They froze things in liquid nitrogen, they had shape changing alloys, they had SEM photographs of bugs! I thought “This is fascinating! I want to be a part of this department!”. And then, when I took my first Mat Sci class and the corresponding lab (with Arlan Benscoter!) – I was so interested and engaged in the entire class – it just confirmed my original gut feeling that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I am still enjoying what I do for a living – and I still get to play with all kinds of cool stuff.

I work in the material analysis lab at the Anna Engine Plant of Honda of America Manufacturing. I perform failure analysis on engine parts [camshafts, crankshafts, connecting rods, etc.]

Stephanie Bojarski, Process Integration Engineer, Intel Corporation, Hillsboro, OR

I chose Materials Science because materials are the building blocks of all other engineering fields.  Materials scientists can have an impact on and understanding of everything!

Adam Kohn, Senior Polymer Innovation Engineer, Nike, Inc., Beaverton, OR

I decided to major in Materials Science because it is extremely hands on and relies heavily on novel and creative thinking. I also really like the wide array of material science applications- lots of job exciting job opportunities!

Denise Yin, Ph.D., Materials Research Engineer, Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD

Because it is the study of “Why?” and “How?” 

I'm a materials research scientist in the Metals branch of our Weapons and Materials Research Directorate at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. I conduct basic and applied research on armor materials [mainly aluminum alloys] and magnetic field-affected processing.

Justin Barone, Protein Q Inc.

Justin BaroneAs for a quick story: when I came to Lehigh I was undecided about what engineering major to pursue.  There used to be a course in the first semester where every freshman enrolled in engineering had to go visit each department outside of class time for a tour.  I found the tours to be extraordinarily boring.  Then I went to the MSE tour and it was exciting!  They plunged a racquetball in nitrogen then smashed it on the floor and smashed a few other things and that got me hooked.  Majored in MSE and now even have a PhD in it.  I am a professor at Virginia Tech now.

Marc Benevento, Managing Director, Industrial Market Insight LLC, Worthington, OH

Marc BeneventoI pursued a degree in Materials Science and Engineering because I wanted to be part of creating things, and anything that gets built uses materials.  My interest was in materials I sporting goods, and a freshman seminar conducted by Dr. Notis on the topic of materials in baseball bats was enough to steer me into Materials.

Although I haven’t worked I the sporting goods industry, I have had the opportunity to work in materials development for Honda R&D Americas before moving on to strategy and business development in adhesives and composites in the chemical industry.  Four years ago, I founded a company that conducts strategy and business development focusing on manufacturers of industrial products and business materials.

My Lehigh degree was a great foundation on which to build a career that has spanned industries, roles, and taken me to places all over the world.  I could not have imagined this when I graduated in 1993.