Finding the perfect Fit at Georgia Tech

As an instate student who wanted to receive a first-rate education, Stephanie Li explained she chose Georgia Tech because of its renowned engineering programs and research opportunities. Coming from Buford, GA, she remarked, “There are a lot of vibrant opportunities for private life in the heart of Midtown, and it is a great place to be socially and academically.”

A Passion for Materials

Stephanie has always had a passion for chemistry and was drawn to the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) because of the way it blends research with practical solutions. She found her niche in the field analyzing nanoscopic forces transferred to material properties. Research internships she completed in high school opened her eyes to working with soft materials, and she enjoyed the "synthesis that corresponds with what researchers do.”

Exploring the MSE Program

While still in the early stages of her academic journey, Stephanie has been impressed by the program’s resources. She is a regular user and enjoys utilizing the Materials Innovation Learning Laboratory (MILL), an undergraduate-run make-and-measure space primarily dedicated to MSE, to accumulate hands-on experience outside the traditional classroom. Stephanie was excited to learn how accessible the different tools in the lab were, including machines for measurement, processing, and characterization. “These machines are things everyone can use with proper training,” she shared. “It’s not as daunting as it seems.” The MILL has served as a jumping-off point for Stephanie’s interest and was a “prelude into research through the machines being used.”

Inspiration from the Everyday

Stephanie has been using the MILL to develop projects that fit her personal interests. She gains inspiration from the things she uses every day. Recently, she utilized the MILL’s 3D printers to design a video game controller holder. She has also designed and created different types of organizers. “It allows me to use concepts related to MSE in a fun way,” she explains. “I get to think about the filament types, their melting temperatures, and the operational temperatures required for printing.” The practical application developed in the lab and her everyday experiences allow her to understand the importance of moving theoretical principles into practice. The relaxed atmosphere and the ability to participate in processing teams have made the MILL one of the most meaningful learning experiences she has had at GT.

Future Innovation

Before arriving at GT, Stephanie was unsure of the direct path she would take. She found inspiration during the MSE program’s undergraduate student group guest lecture series, which features industry professionals. “One guest lecturer opened my eyes to the field of sports science,” she explains. Stephanie became interested in how to implement material science to optimize the performance of shoes. “If wearing shoes, how can the sole be designed so that you use less force?” she asked.

Alternative Industry Possibilities

Stephanie’s interest in materials is more about performance rather than aesthetics. Similar to her interest in redesigning the soles of shoes, Stephanie also sees future possibilities in the automotive industry. Utilizing GT’s motorsports clubs, GT Motor Sports and Hytech Racing, students can “apply their theoretical foundation building composite parts for cars,” Stephanie explained. She can see numerous opportunities to apply for her MSE degree in the future, such as working with carbon fiber and other composite materials.

Encouraging Aspiring Material Scientists

Stephanie emphasizes the importance of blending interests with the MSE program. “The strength in the program lies in its interdisciplinary nature,” she notes. She encourages students who are interested in fields such as aerospace, sports, fashion design, construction, and biomaterials to consider MSE as a major. She explained that material science lays the foundation for innovators who desire to “transcend the limits of what we have today.”