By Allison McLellan
Originally appeared on the Materials Science and Engineering website.
Undergraduate Amy Hernandez is in her final year at UConn, but she knows her Material Science and Engineering (MSE) education has provided her with a bright future head. “Material science and engineering is diverse and empowering; it is how we will adapt for the future and create novel technologies and improvements,” Amy said.
Amy first became interested in engineering during her junior year in high school when a chemistry teacher encouraged her to try something new. After joining a robotics team, she realized that the challenges and creativity in engineering were for her. Amy came to UConn to further her studies and was awarded a scholarship that allowed her to study without distraction.
This fall, Amy joined a UConn graduate student under Dr. Mark Aindow, MSE professor and associate director of the Institute of Material Sciences, in studying the effects of heat-treating over a range of temperature and treatment durations on the microstructure and mechanical properties of a Pratt & Whitney powder metal alloy. With this experience, she has been able to expand her knowledge about sample preparation and microstructural analysis outside of the classroom.
This is not Amy’s first time working with Pratt & Whitney; she has spent two summers interning with the company, gaining perspective on engineering and teamwork while professionally applying her MSE education. She was also able to volunteer with PROJECT S.T.E.M., a Pratt & Whitney organization that works to bring STEM awareness to children K-12.
Through the UConn BRIDGE pre-engineering program, Amy was introduced to multiple engineering outreach organizations. In Engineering Ambassadors, she has participated with the presentation team, toured reclaimed water facilities, and has been both vice president and co-president. With the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, she has taken part in workshops on leadership and professionalism at conferences. Her involvement has taught her how to effectively present and communicate information, teach children, and become empowered in her own pursuits.
On her volunteer work, she says, “What has meant most to me has been the opportunity to reach out to children to teach them about engineering and the level of creativity and determination tied to it. The ability to inspire younger generations has become a driving force for myself to continue on, even when my engineering homework seems almost impossible!”
Amy’s motivation has certainly taken her far at UConn; she has gone on skiing trips, been skydiving, and was able to meet idols such as Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur and inventor. However, her favorite experience has been her semester abroad at the University of Auckland. Traveling to New Zealand had always been a dream of hers, and UConn’s exchange program made it possible. While abroad, Amy took interesting courses with the university, traveled through the entire country, met people from all over the world, and even went bungee jumping.
As her journey at UConn comes to an end, Amy looks forward to working in the aerospace industry, a technology in the forefront of materials development. Additionally, she desires to further her education, possibly continuing her role as educator to young students through programs such as Teach for America. Regardless, Amy keeps an open mind about her future. “Knowing myself, I will continue traveling, learning, and finding new opportunities. I look forward to finding out where I end up!”