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Rebecca Cohn


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

Support Old El Paso global packaging for innovation, renovation, & holistic margin management projects 


B.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Michigan, 2017

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My MSE degree gave me a background understanding of engineering principles, material properties, and the testing available to investigate specific characteristics of a material. This information has helped me in my career because I work with food packaging and the material substrates used is critically important for food/package interactions, manufacturability, and barrier properties that ensure food quality and shelf life. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

I actually loved taking Orgo, MSE 242 (quantum) & MSE 350 (thermo) – passionate professors and a great group of MSE friends made these classes some of the highlights in my undergrad. Favorite events: my first football game at the Big House - Norte Dame game 2013 under the lights (we won!), and the SWE-TBP Fall Engineering Career Fairs – I loved everything about CF season and was on the planning committee (chair or director) for 3 years. My favorite student organization was SWE – I loved the variety of events, things they did on campus and in the community, and the friends I made there. 

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Embrace the large scope of subjects/materials you can study in MSE. One of the strengths of this major is how many different things you can learn about and ways to apply your engineering skill set. If you don’t love the heavy research or theory of some of the required classes, don’t worry – you can find an engineering job that doesn’t involve the deep technical details of college classes, but having a basic materials background really elevates your ability to do your job. Also, if you love learning more technical information on a specific material, there are careers for you – maybe its in academia (after a masters or PhD) or a job at a national lab, etc. Use internships/summer positions as a way to experience different work environments, industries, and really understand what career path interests you the most. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Biking around the lakes, kayaking and paddle boarding, hiking, playing with my dog, and trying out new recipes for my friends. 

Azia Harris-Martin


Consultant, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California


B.S.E. – Material Science and Engineering, with a Minor in Business 

Administration at Ross School of Public Health Health Policy and Management), University of Michigan, 2017 

M.P.H. – Emory University, 2019 

Employment history

Consultant, Kaiser Permanente- first job post bachelor’s and master’s degrees - Develop recommendations from quantitative and qualitative analysis for various improvement projects

Currently working on a $10M project that has the opportunity to improve patient care through a coordinated/ integrated care model.

Special training

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt - Healthcare- In Progress (University of Michigan)

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My time at Michigan in the MSE Department was invaluable. Many people often are surprised at me telling them I got my undergraduate degree in materials science. The first question after I tell them that is usually, “What is that?,” followed by, “How does that apply to what you are doing now?” Honestly, I see more similarities in Healthcare Operations and Materials Science than I did in Materials Science Lab. As materials scientists we combine engineering, physics and chemistry principles to solve real-world problems. We investigate how materials perform and why they sometimes fail. By understanding the structure of matter, from atomic scale to millimeter scale, we invent new ways to make things work. That is what I am currently doing!

I am studying the healthcare system and how the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to the chaos in the field. Using my problem-solving skills, I aim to understand how each part of the system works from the smallest level to the largest. After understanding the scope of the problem, similar to in a lab, I analyze the data and begin to figure out potential solutions- also looking at why some systems work and some fail to get a better perspective.

I have the ability to use each of the Michigan Engineering Plus Competencies almost every day. Technical Leadership- looking at the data and leading through tips that I learned through the book "The Thermodynamics of Leadership" Creativity & Innovation- Brainstorming different solutions through various problems and using the resources/ constraints given. Entrepreneurial Mindset - staying ahead of the curve by understanding the industry and thinking about what is needed. Intercultural Intelligence- looking around the table to understand who is at the table and who isn't to think holistically about all the stakeholders my project may affect.Collaborative Spirit- working out issues with colleagues and looking at what other healthcare organizations have done and their best practices for making things work and also learning from them about what didn't work and why. Social and Environmental Responsibilities- remembering that the customers come first and within any project I work on the patients are the most important. Effective Communication- being personable and talking to as many levels of leadership as possible to understand the system. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

My favorite classes were the two capstone courses (MSE 489 and MSE 480). During my first capstone class in the Fall of 2016, my group decided to focus on The Flint Water Crisis where we designed a potential filtration system that would enable the state to dynamically monitor the water that is distributed to individuals and posted on a public database in real time to provide better transparency. This project inspired me to start a career in public health and I began to apply to MPH programs with the intention of going into Health Policy and potentially start a career in the EPA to hold engineers more accountable for the failing American infrastructure. The second semester of our capstone project I joined a project that focused on chronic disease care. This project allowed me to get more insight on the American health system and I sought to use everything I learned in Material Science to pivot into healthcare administration. Outside of classes I was heavily involved with The Dean of Students Advisory Board, The National Society of Black Engineers, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nu Chapter, M-STEM, The Bicentennial Student Advisory Committee, Lead Scholars Program, and had the opportunity to start a mentoring organization on campus- The Pretty Brown Girls. My most invaluable experiences were studying abroad to Kumasi, Ghana (2013) and Chaing Mai, Thailand (2015).  

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Look at your 4-5 years at Michigan as a world of unlimited possibilities. Talk to as many professors as possible about the things that they are researching, stay up to date about trends in the field, try as many things as possible- join an acapella group, go to as many sports games (not only football), enjoy the all-nighters in the Dude, and keep pushing forward. Your passions are rooted in your past; therefore, try to expose yourself to as many things as possible in the short amount of time you're in Ann Arbor. But, most of all, enjoy the chicken broccoli bake at Bursley! 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Moving to a new state there is so much to explore. I pride myself in taking pictures of my dog Zeus. I also love trying to restaurants. I am also heavily involved with my sorority and The American College of Health Executives. Last, but not least, meeting up with fellow Wolverines to cheer on Michigan football, basketball, or baseball.

Timothy Chan


Materials and Processes Engineer, Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles


B.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Michigan, 2016

M.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Michigan, 2017

Employment history

Materials and Processes Engineer, Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles, 2018 - present

Perform research and development of materials and processes to be used in next-generation aircraft

Supplier Development Engineer - Special Processes, SpaceX, 2017-2018, Los Angeles 

Oversaw the performance, quality, and improvement of all SpaceX suppliers handling metallurgical treatment 

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

The field of materials science and engineering is incredibly broad with many avenues for exploration. My MSE degrees taught me the fundamentals of the discipline and were paramount in acquiring the skills necessary to understand and dive deep into any new problem or topic that may come my way at work.

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

I actively participated in the Michigan Materials Society, BLUELab, and the Michigan Marching Band. All three of these organizations were filled with fantastic students, faculty, and staff. I would not be who I am today if it weren't for the guidance, support, and community that these organizations provided.

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

As an MSE major, you'll have an opportunity for the inner scientist in you to grow, exploring and understanding how and why the materials of our world behave the way they do. You'll then be able to take this knowledge and apply it to reality, engineering next-generation materials that will make up the world of tomorrow. If you're a scientist at your core, this is the field for you. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I'm currently training for my second marathon, I play violin in the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, I'm a member of the Northrop Grumman Dragon Boat team, and am always seeking to perfect my sourdough recipe.

Kathleen Chou


Ph.D. student, University of Michigan


B.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering, with a Program Certificate in Entrepreneurship), University of Michigan, 2013

M.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Michigan, 2018

Ph.D. (Materials Science and Engineering) (in progress), University of Michigan

Industry experience

The Boeing Company – Materials Process and Physics Engineer, St. Louis, 2014-2016

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My MSE degrees have prepared me for every one of my internships and jobs, since they have been all related to materials science! Early on in my undergraduate degree, I thought metallic materials were really interesting, and I got my first taste of the importance of metals working as an intern in the aerospace industry on jet engines. Improving the high temperature capability of materials in the engine affects how much fuel the engine will burn, so materials science and engineering is extremely important. That experience led to another internship and working full time in the aerospace industry, which were great learning opportunities. Now, my research in my PhD is also in metallurgy and focuses on developing new titanium alloys for aerospace and biomedical applications.

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

In my undergraduate degree, I was very involved in the Michigan Concrete Canoe team, which is a student design team working on building and racing lightweight canoes out of concrete that floats, and other student organizations such as Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honors society, and the Michigan Materials Society. These were great opportunities to practice the engineering design process, collaborate with other students, and develop my leadership skills. In graduate school, I've been involved in the graduate section of the Society of Women Engineers and the Materials Science and Engineering outreach programs.

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

If you have ever wondered what the things around us are made of, or want to learn more about how to make materials stronger, lighter, or enable new engineering designs, this is the degree for you! Materials are everywhere, which I think makes the subject really interesting and applicable. Also, take advantage of all the opportunities at Michigan to explore your interests. There are so many different student organizations, opportunities to get involved in research and internships, and ways to study abroad, and your degree is the perfect time to try new things and see what you enjoy. This applies to both extracurricular activities and your interests in materials science, and the professors and staff can be a big resource in helping you navigate your degree. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Running, hiking/camping, and baking


Grace Hsia


Co-Founder & CEO, Warmilu LLC, Ann Arbor & Detroit, Michigan


B.S.E. (Materials Science & Engineering), 2012

The University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, College of Engineering – Ann Arbor, MI (2012 - 2013) 

Master of Entrepreneurship (MsE), Joint Degree Program - University of Michigan, College of Engineering 

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

MSE is a diverse, interdisciplinary field which required practicing broad, open-ended problem solving in addition to understanding the broad expanse of chemical, physical, optical, mechanical, electrical, magnetic, macro and micro properties of materials and systems of materials and their environment. This kind of knowledge prepares you to be a subject matter expert with in-depth technical and direct hands-on analysis skills. MSE as such a broad field also naturally lends itself a significant of collaboration across areas of expertise within MSE and with industry, academia, and government partners. I find that my MSE colleagues tend to be strong leaders on teams and strong collaborators. MSE also taught me to be a deep thinker in how/what methods we use to analyze materials; MSE  taught me how to practice proper methods development and how to put together methods and benchmark testing plans and systems and tools. We also learned basics in how to manufacture and prototype with various materials; that always gave me enough of a foundation to begin conversations with confidence to suppliers of equipment and contract manufacturers. As an entrepreneur, this all helped me pick up information very quickly and create methods to test hypotheses for a business model or a potential prototype in a short period of time. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

I loved being a part of the University of Michigan Engineering Student Government, MRun, Blueprint Literary Magazine, Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program, Society of Women Engineers, and K-Grams. From freshman to junior year, I was the Editor-In-Chief for the U-M College of Engineering Newsletter for the Student Government. I also was a teaching assistant for ENGR 100. 

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Are you a problem solver? Do you want to make real world impact? Do you want to serve the common good? MSE is one of the most tangible majors to make that kind of impact and to be able to find yourself problem solving and positively impacting the world in academia, research, government, and industry with the opportunity to grow (quickly) into key leadership and expert roles. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I am a mentor through the University of Michigan HAIL program and #BUILTBYGIRLS :: Wave. I spearhead critical initiatives for the University of Michigan Engineering Alumni Board Department Promotions Subcommittee. I run prototyping workshops and give guest academic lectures on leadership. For fun, I run, read, sing in a choir, explore science and art museums, eat sushi, paint, listen to productivity/economic/science podcasts, cook and bake brand new things for breakfast and dinner, work on wood projects like a pallet coffee table, and watch Broadway in Detroit shows.

Marcus Collins


Chief Consumer Connections Officer, Doner, Detroit, Michigan


Lecturer of Marketing, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan


B.S.E. (Materials Science & Engineering), University of Michigan, 2002 

M.B.A., Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, 2009 

D.B.A., Fox School of Business, Temple University, Expected 2021

Previous Employment


Developed and led the social media practice for the agency, with such brands as State Farm, Bud Light, McDonald's, & Brooklyn Nets

2013 – 2015, Executive Director of Social Engagement

2011 – 2013, Director of Social Engagement


Supervised the direction and growth of major accounts for the social media and branded content agency for Microsoft, GORE-TEX®, Colgate-Palmolive, and Fisher Price.

2010-2011, Account Director


Conceived, launched, and supervised all online, mobile, and interactive brand initiatives for the management company and record label home of Beyoncé.

2009-2010, Director of Digital Strategy and New Media

APPLE, INC. - Cupertino, CA

Managed all digital content and online marketing initiatives for iTunes' partnership with Nike and iTunes' large-scale college/university marketing campaigns.

2008-2009, Partnership Marketing Manager, iTunes 


2008, Digital Marketing Consultant 

MUSE RECORDINGS, LLC - Detroit, MI & New York, NY

2002-2007, Co-Founder/Head of Product Development

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

It taught me how to think and how to solve problems by way of applied logic. Much of my work today is immersed in social networks. Having been exposed to networks, through my MSE polymers courses, helped me conceptualize the possibilities of what can happen through network connections.

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

Materials Engineering Design and Polymeric Materials

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Widen your aperture as you go through your course work. There are so many applications to MSE which might not seem obvious or tangible at first glance, but the opportunities are vast -- from art to fashion, sport to business. I would have never imagined that my studies in MSE back then would be so helpful to my career in marketing/advertising today. Had I known, I would have been more purposeful and exploratory as a student. Learn from my mistake. There is SO much you can do with a MSE degree, you just have to be creative in regards to how you apply the concepts.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Family, family, family!



James Yurko


Director, Materials Engineering, Apple,  Cupertino, California

Lead team responsible for alloy development within Apple Product Design


B.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Michigan, 1997

Ph.D. (Metallurgy), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001 

Employment history

Director, Materials Engineering. Apple. 2015-present. Cupertino, Calif. Lead team responsible for alloy development within Apple Product Design.

Co-founder, Boston Electrometallurgical (now Boston Metal). 2012-2015. Woburn, Mass. Created a start-up commercializing technology reducing environmental impact of metals extraction

Successive roles culminating in Vice-President, Technology and R&D. Materion Corporation. 2011-2015. Elmore, Ohio. 

Responsible for materials and process development related to beryllium, beryllium and metal matrix composites, and bulk metallic glasses

Co-Founder and Chief Engineer, Electrolytic Research Corporation (ERC). 2007-2011. Sudbury, Mass. Led development of sustainable metals extraction technology

R&D Team Leader and Staff Metallurgist, BuhlerPrince. 2002-2007. Holland, Mich. Led process development of die casting technology 

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My career is focused on the development and application of new materials and processes. 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. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

MSE 480 (Materials and Engineering Design) and MSE 489 (Materials Processing Design). Both courses tied together the undergrad curriculum to approach materials design and processing challenges. I started to realize how impactful and interdisciplinary MSE could be after taking these senior-level courses. Michigan Materials Society. The student-led group hosted a weekly speaker series that was an amazing window into the real world of MSE and a chance to network with alumni. Interactions with MSE alumni such as Ray Decker and Chip Keough showed how impactful a career in MSE could be and spawned my passion for metallurgical innovation. 

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

I feel fortunate to have majored in MSE. I really enjoy the balance of science and engineering and have had the privilege of working on impactful challenges in my career. It's also a smaller field and department and it was easy to bond with classmates and faculty. Even now, when I attend annual materials conferences such as TMS, it's great to catch up with my Michigan and MIT friends who I have known since school.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I'm quite busy with work and family, but I've been enjoying life in California, especially the outdoors. I believe strongly in being active in your local community, and I'm a leader in my son's Boy Scout troop. Of course I love Michigan football and still make it back to Ann Arbor a few times a year for games.

Mark Nichols



Manager: Coatings, Surface Engineering and Process Modeling, 

Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company, 

Dearborn, Michigan


B.S. (Materials Science & Engineering), Univ. of Michigan, 1987

M.S. (Materials Science & Engineering), Univ. of Illinois, 1989

Ph.D. (Materials Science & Engineering), Univ. of Michigan, 1992

Employment history

Ford Motor Company - Technical Leader– Coatings and Corrosion Research, Dearborn, MI (2001-2019)

Journal of Coatings Technology and Research – Editor-in-Chief (2010 – present) 

Ford Motor Company, Ford Motor Company, Ford Research Laboratory, Ford Motor Company.  Dearborn, MI (1992-2001)

Wayne State University – Part-time Professor - Materials Science Department.  Detroit (1999 - 2010)

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My degrees in MSE gave me the foundation upon which I built my career in organic coatings. While I learned almost nothing about coatings in school, the principles, experimental techniques, and theoretical background from my MSE education were easily applicable, and frankly, brought a new way of thinking into the organic coatings field. I was able to approach problems in a way that other coating scientists were not, and it allowed me to make progress on difficult problems. The other non-core classes I took in physics and chemistry also gave me skills and knowledge that enabled me to think about polymer problems from a different perspective and with a different set of base-skills. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

As a graduate student, I particularly enjoyed my Mechanical Properties of Polymers class taught by Prof. Yee. My undergraduate Polymer Processing class taught by Prof. Filisko has proven to be invaluable in my work. Friday afternoon graduate seminars were always educational and helpful, as were the student/faculty mixer afterwards.

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

The way our society creates, uses, and re-uses materials will have an ever-increasing impact on our future. A degree in MSE can put you at the forefront of the issues confronting the sustainability of our society, and can enable you to make a meaningful difference in the important technical challenges we face. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I keep two honeybee hives at my house and enjoy observing and participating in that ongoing science experiment. When the weather permits, I enjoy riding my road bike in the country near my house.


Elizabeth Holm


Professor, Carnegie Mellon University


B.S.E. (MSE), University of Michigan, 1987
S.M. (Ceramics), MIT, 1989
Ph.D. (MSE and Scientific Computing), University of Michigan, 1992

Previous Employment

Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff (2002-2012), Principal Member of the

Technical Staff (1997-2002), and Senior Member of the Technical Staff (1992-1997) in

Computational Materials Science and Engineering at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Visiting Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (2004)

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

Michigan gave me great academics, internship opportunities, and a supportive community that prepared and sustained me for the past 30 years...and counting!

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

Organizations: Tau Beta Pi (president), Michigan Materials Society (activities chair), Epeians (founder) Classes: Anything taught by the inimitable Professor Bill Hosford! Events: Enginfest - which became Springfest. Football Saturdays, of course. Breakfast at Zingermans!

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

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!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Glass blowing, folk music, knitting, canning, riding horses, and enjoying life.

Kimberly O. Flesner


Materials Practice Lead, Stress Engineering Services, Inc., Houston, Texas


B.S.E. (Materials & Metallurgical Engineering), University of Michigan, 1984

M.S.E. (Materials Science and Engineering), University of Texas, 1989

1984-1989: Metallurgical Engineer, Radian Corporation, Austin, TX: Performed metallurgical failure analyses for the subsidiary of a commercial insurance carrier.  Decided I needed to go to graduate school after my 250th boiler tube failure analysis! 

1989-1999: Managing Engineer, Exponent-Failure Analysis Associates, Houston, TX: Conduct failure analyses and large-scale accident investigations for the chemical, refining, marine, agricultural and dry cleaning industries. Most projects were associated with litigation and expert witness testimony. Testified in both State and Federal Court.

How did your MSE degrees prepare you for your career?

My degree – particularly my interaction with the professors – gave me an appreciation and reverence for metallurgy. I’m convinced you have to love your work to be happy in life, and I truly love metallurgy. The professors in the department pushed us to fully understand the basics: casting, rolling, metallography, testing, etc. I can still draw the iron-carbon phase diagram from memory! When I interviewed for my first job, they were surprised and impressed I knew how to polish and etch so many different alloys in addition to recognizing dozens of microstructures (they actually gave me a photo test – I was the only candidate to name all correctly). Additionally, the professors placed a great emphasis on concise report writing and the ability to verbally present the results to a group. That same first job interview required me to give a presentation to the interviewing team. Again, I was the only candidate that was prepared and able to answer questions confidently, all because of my Michigan education. Effective communication is critical to success. No matter how well you do your job, you have to relate that information to others for the work to be recognized. Finally, the professors pushed you to obtain your professional engineer’s license as soon as possible. In most States, it is against the law to practice as an independent or consulting engineer if you do not have the license – we require all our engineers to be registered at Stress. I find a lot of schools do not advocate the importance of registration. So, my advice: get registered as soon as possible, whether your current job requires it or not. You never know what you will do in the future and registration keeps your options open. 

What were your favorite classes, events, and/or student organizations?

I loved casting class and working in the foundry. I also enjoyed microstructural evaluation and, of course, failure analysis. I particularly valued the mentoring relationship I had with Dr. Richard Flinn. He is the primary reason I became a metallurgical engineer.

What advice/thoughts do you have for students considering an MSE major?

Materials Engineering is the common thread among all other forms of engineering and industry – whatever another engineer designs, there has to be a material that supports, contains, or transports that design. This diversity gives you a lot of freedom in your career choices. Additionally, embrace the lab classes; you are likely to spend a lot of time in them during your career. The best materials engineers I know are comfortable with laboratories and materials characterization equipment. Finally, get registered!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Cooking, reading, needlework, playing with my German Shepherd Dogs, and all things Michigan. Go Blue!