Alumni Profiles

Career possibilities for MSE majors are literally limitless! Now more than ever materials scientists and engineers are in demand across a wide variety of industries. Our featured alumni below are perfect examples. "Materials engineer," "consultant," "CEO," and "marketing executive" are just a few of their titles. But while they may have chosen very different career paths, our alums do have one important thing in common: They all credit their MSE education for their career success. Beyond learning Fe-C phase diagrams and semiconductor band gaps, our alumni say that their MSE knowledge and skill sets allowed them to grow (quickly!) into key leadership and expert roles.

Click on each alum to learn more about his or her fascinating career and what advice each has for you as a student, whether you're embarking on or considering a degree in MSE.

 

Grace Hsia

Founder and CEO, Warmilu, Ann Arbor

Since graduating with her B.S.E. in 2012, Grace Hsia has had a red-hot career as an entrepreneur, forming her own company, Warmilu, which manufactures non-electric incubator blankets for infants that to date have warmed more than 7,200 babies in 11 different developing countries. Hsia has been included in a number of prestigious business lists, including Forbes “30 Under 30” and Crain’s “Notable Women in Manufacturing.” 

 

 

Marcus Collins

Chief Consumer Connections Officer, Doner, Detroit
Lecturer of Marketing, U-M Ross School of Business

Being a digital strategist for Beyoncé is not a typical MSE career, we’ll grant you, but MSE alum Marcus Collins (BSE ’02), currently an executive at a hip Detroit ad agency and marketing lecturer at the Ross School of Business, credits his highly successful career to his MSE training. “It taught me how to think and how to solve problems by way of applied logic,” he says. “I would have never imagined that my studies in MSE back then would be so helpful to my career in marketing/advertising today.” 

 

Azia Harris-Martin

Consultant, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.

In her role at Kaiser Permanente, Azia Harris-Martin (BSE ’17) says she sees more similarities between healthcare operations and materials science than she did as a student working in materials science labs. “I use each of the Michigan Engineering Plus Competencies almost every day,” she says. Harris-Martin first became interested in public health with her two capstone classes, MSE489 & MSE480, when her group designed a potential filtration system in response to the Flint water crisis. 

 

 

Jim Yurko

Director, Materials Engineering, Apple, Cupertino, Calif.

The fruit of Jim Yurko’s R&D background is his current position at Apple where he leads the team responsible for alloy development. At the core of Yurko’s success, he says, is his MSE training: “My MSE degrees enabled me with strong materials science fundamentals, but also the problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills necessary to participate on and lead innovation-focused teams.”

 

 

Kathleen Chou

Ph.D. student, University of Michigan

MSE has propelled Kathleen Chou’s interest in the aerospace industry. After graduating from U-M in 2013, Chou took an internship with Boeing, which then launched her into a full-time job as a Boeing materials process and physics engineer. Her current mission? Completing a Ph.D. in metallurgy that focuses on developing new titanium alloys for aerospace and biomedical applications.

 

 

Rebecca Cohn

Packaging Research & Development Engineer I
General Mills, Minneapolis, Minn. 

Rebecca Cohn (BSE ’17) has her career in the packaging engineering industry wrapped up thanks to her strong materials background: “I work with food packaging and the material substrates used are critically important for food/package interactions, manufacturability, and barrier properties that ensure food quality and shelf life.” 

 

 

Tim Chan

Materials and Processes Engineer
Nothrop Grumman, Los Angeles 

Since graduating from U-M with two degrees (BSE ’16 and MSE ’17), Tim Chan’s career has soared as a next-gen engineer. Formerly with SpaceX, Chan uses his MSE training in his current role to research and develop materials for next-generation aircraft. “As an MSE major,” Chan says, “you’ll…be able to take this knowledge and apply it to reality, engineering next-generation materials that will make up the world of tomorrow.”

 

 

Kimberly O. Flesner

Managing Principal and Materials Engineering Practice Lead
Stress Engineering Services, Inc., Houston, Texas

Kim Flesner (BSE '84) is a success at failures. For more than 30 years, Flesner has worked as a failure analyst - investigating failures and accidents primarily in the gas and oil industry. One of her biggest projects was the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill, which happened off Alaska’s coast in 1989. The one thing that’s never failed her? Her MSE degree, starting with her very first job interview: “I was the only candidate who was prepared and able to answer questions confidently, all because of my Michigan education.”

 

Elizabeth Holm

Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.

After an award-winning career at Sandia National Labs (including Outstanding Women at Sandia National Laboratories, 2012), Elizabeth Holm (BSE ’87, PHD ‘92) switched gears to become a professor at Carnegie Mellon. Her career path may have changed, but not her enthusiasm for MSE: “Everything we make, we make out of materials. That means MSE is the foundation of every other engineering discipline. We’re everywhere and we can do anything!” 

 

Mark Nichols

Manager: Coatings, Surface Engineering and Process Modeling
Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company
Dearborn, Mich. 

Mark Nichols (BS ’87, PHD ‘92) says that the robust palette of problem-solving skills he gained at U-M has served him well and set him apart from other coating scientists. From his perspective, there’s no need to sugar-coat the incredible impact an MSE degree can make in today’s world: “A degree in MSE can put you at the forefront of the issues confronting the sustainability of our society and enable you to make a meaningful difference in the important technical challenges we face.”