Nineteen new materials scientists will receive their Rice degree on Saturday, May 12, and will pass through the Sallyport for the first time since their matriculation in fall 2014. The largest class to graduate from the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE) to date, they were also the first to matriculate into the young department.
“This graduating class is enormous compared to past years,” said senior Ajay Subramanian. “We are a new department, and they really care about the students and take our feedback into account.”
A third of this year’s class are heading to graduate school at places such as Harvard, MIT and Northwestern, and many more are heading to industry and startups. Subramanian will pursue a materials science Ph.D. at Stanford and will be joined by classmate Brandi Ransom, who was recently named to the inaugural class of Knight-Hennessey scholars.
“I’m really excited for what’s after this,” said senior Renee Li, who will be moving to Washington, D.C. to work for Capital One as a business analyst. She said her interest in consulting makes this a great fit for her. “With this job, there are a lot of intersections with materials science, such as problem-solving and being able to work with people on a variety of complex issues,” she said.
Also interested in consulting, Eric Pan will be heading to McKinsey and Company, and hopes one day to be on the business side of the aerospace industry. “Materials science has broad applications in aerospace,” he said. “What we find out in space will take materials science to understand.”
Life inside the hedges
As they prepare to graduate, the seniors took a look back at their years at Rice.
“Oh my gosh, it’s been so vast and crazy and exciting and fun,” said Li. “My time at Rice has been really wonderful. I learned so much.”
Lidia Kuo, who will pursue her Ph.D. in. Materials science at Northwestern, agreed.
“My experience here helped flesh out not only my career plans but my goals for life,” she said. “I really love research, and I found that passion at Rice.”
“The support and contact from faculty has been so valuable, and the staff are our unsung heroes — they are rock stars,” Subramanian said. “I’m a big fan of the crew here.”
While materials science research and education have been part of the Rice curriculum since the 1950s, the MSNE department was created in 2014 to bring materials science faculty together under one program and focus research efforts.
The department’s early years overlapped with the Rice careers of this year’s graduating class, and the department relied on students for real-time feedback. Senior David Pham said being a part of that process was rewarding, both as a MSNE student and as president of the MSNE Undergraduate Society this year.
“One thing that makes MSNE great is that the department is receptive to change,” he said. “A lot of the changes the society suggested have been implemented.”
The department took feedback on teaching and curriculum, and added a TA program in the four years since Pham started.
“All of those changes have been net positive, and I worked on those things, so I can say this is my legacy,” he added.
Looking into the future
The lasting legacy of the class of 2018 will be their willingness to collaborate with faculty and drive decisions. Working closely with the department, they’ve learned a lot in the past four years and are eager to share that advice.
Li said she would encourage fellow MSNE students to explore the many opportunities available to them at Rice. “One of the best parts of my college experience was making friends with a lot of cool people, discovering things about myself and discovering the resources that Rice offers,” she said.
Subramanian agreed. “I don’t think there is a single other university that devotes as many resources to its undergrads. Diving into that has been a privilege, and a lot of fun.”
Pham said his advice to new Rice students is to ask questions, and talk to people. A lot of people.
“What made my decision [to major in MSNE] was talking to O-Week advisers about my genuine interests,” he said. “There is a lot of opportunity at Rice and a lot of those are hidden very well. Don’t be afraid to ask what those opportunities are. Ask people who have gone through it, whether that is career or academics related.”
To the class of 2018: The best for you.
Michael David Bonar
Richard Massey Branscomb
Matthew Isaac Calem
Matthew Ryan French
Hye Yoon Hwang
Ariel Hurst McFalls
Jung Hyeon Moon
Zixuan (Eric) Pan
Brandi Nicole Ransom
Alex Michael Rother
Ajay Krishna Subramanian
Matthew Ryan Weatherman
Joelle Rihanna Whyte