University of Tennessee
Department of Materials Science & Engineering

MSE & Student Engagement Awards
Knoxville, TN, April 9, 2024

The University of Tennessee held a reception honoring undergraduate and graduate students who had been nominated for a Student Engagement Award. There were seven awards for individual student. The Materials Science & Engineering department had two students nominated for individual awards. MSE junior, Marlena Alexander, was nominated for "Outstanding Executive Board Member" for her work with Materials Advantage. MSE graduate student, Melanie Moczadlo, was nominated for "Outstanding Graduate or Professional Student" for her work with SLOPE, (Service Learning & Outreach with 3D Printers by Engineers).

There were also seven awards for student organizations. The local student chapter of MRS (Materials Research Society) was nominated for "Outstanding Academic Student Organization".

Marlena Alexander was named the 2024 recipient of the "Outstanding Executive Board Member" award. Marlena is currently deployed in the Middle East, where she serves as a Senior Airman in the 134th Aerial Refueling Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard, working as an Environmental and Electrical Systems Specialist. MSE junior, Fabriana Prawiranata, accepted the award on Marlena's behalf.

Congratulations to our high-flying (literally) junior, Marlena! We look forward to you getting home safely and rejoining us on campus in the fall.

Our local student chapter of MRS was named the 2024 recipient of the "Outstanding Academic Student Organization". Pictured from left to right are officers, Rebecca Lalk, Kim Pestovich, Cole Franz & Sean Drewry.

The local chapter of MRS embraces the MRS vision:
The Materials Research Society (MRS) is an organization of materials researchers worldwide that promotes communication for the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve the quality of life.
As examples of their work in just the past year, our MRS chapter has organized and participated in the following five events.
  • In August, 2023, the MRS hosted a cookout welcoming approximately twenty first-year graduate students, recently arrived on campus. This cookout serves to introduce the group to each other and provides the foundation for a cohort that forms bonds for social and academic support.
  • In November, 2023, the local MRS chapter organized a mentoring workshop targeted at graduate students in MSE. They reserved a spot in the departmental seminar series and booked speakers with expertise and experience in mentoring. This event was developed with an understanding of the mental health issues that today's graduate students face and the recognition that mentoring plays an important role in managing stress and navigating the ordinary, logistical challenges of life as a graduate student.
  • In the fall semester of 2023, the local MRS chapter held its second annual "Science as Art" competition, in which STEM students at UTK are given the opportunity to showcase the artistic qualities of their research. A healthy activity that nurtures the whole person, this event provides students a path to express a part of their creativity that is not always immediately apparent in their science. (photos)
  • In March, 2024, MRS imported an activity from the national MRS conferences to the local stage by hosting a "Powerpoint Karaoke" event. All members of the UTK MSE community (faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students) were invited to participate in presenting a single light-hearted Powerpoint slide revealed to them only a minute before presentation. The night provided a clever opportunity to mix improvisational and professional presentation skills with community building through lots of laughter. (photos)
  • In October, 2023, MRS (again) recruited ten volunteers to run the "egg-drop" competition at UTK Engineers Day. This event draws more than a thousand high school students from across the state of Tennessee to carefully consider the properties of individual materials they incorporate in their design. At Engineers Day, MRS both recruits for UTK and communicates for the "advancement of interdisciplinary materials research."

Congratulations to all the nominees and award winners who represent MSE so well. We are proud of all of you.

More photos on the Keffer research group site.