Advanced Materials Characterization Graduate Certificate in Engineering Program

Advanced Materials Characterization Graduate Certificate Program

At the request of local industry, Institute of Materials Science Director Steven L. Suib created the Advanced Materials Characterization (AMC) Certificate Graduate Certificate in Engineering program. The program is designed to help researchers understand the latest techniques of identification and analysis of materials. The curriculum consists of four courses all developed by Dr. Suib: Structural Analysis, Microstructural and Morphological Analysis, Compositional Analyses, and Surface and Interfacial Analysis.

The online format of all the courses allows professionals to participate regardless of their schedule or location. The program includes one student from Ohio and another from Puerto Rico. At the conclusion of the spring 2022 semester, 3 students completed the certificate program. One student reported that they were impressed by the course format and extensive content, and they have implemented a variety of the techniques for their research and development position. AMC is another great example of IMS’s willingness to react to the needs of local industry.

For more information about the Advanced Materials Characterization Certificate Program, visit:

Polymer Program Announces 2021-2022 Awards

The IMS Polymer Program Awards committee has selected two awardees for the 2021 – 2022 academic year.

Chung Hao Polymer Program Award
Chung Hao Liu (center), winner of the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award, with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke (left) and advisor, Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh.

Chung-Hao Liu received the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award.  This award recognizes a graduate student for outstanding research in the field of polymer science and engineering.  Chung-Hao completed is fourth year as a polymer PhD candidate under the guidance of Prof. Mu-Ping Nieh. He has been diligent in conducting advanced nanoscience research including materials characterization and designing polymer nanostructures. His efforts have resulted in two published journal articles, one currently in review, and contributions to many more. Chung-Hao has also made many collaborating efforts with other research groups and mentored undergraduate engineering students. Outside the lab, Chung-Hao has been an Society of Polymer Engineers, Storrs Chapter, committee member for 3 years, serving as both Vice President and President. His positive attitude and strong work ethics have made contributions to Prof. Nieh’s lab and the IMS research community.

Probodha Abeykoon Receives 2022 Polymer Program Award
Probodha Abeykoon (center), winner of the Stephanie H. Shaw Fellowship Scholar Award, with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke and advisor, Dr. Douglas Adamson.

Probodha Abeykoon has been recognized as this year’s Stephanie H. Shaw Fellowship Scholar. This award is designated for a female student showing academic achievement and contributions outside of research.  Probodha has served as the leader of the Adamson Research Lab and has taken it upon herself to be the resident expert in several analytical techniques, such as four-point probe and thermal conductivity. She has two published papers and a third manuscript recently submitted. She has also presented her work at several ACS National Meetings. During the past 4 years Probodha has grown in into an excellent scientist and group leader.

The polymer program congratulates this year’s awardees with their tremendous efforts in both research and leadership in the IMS community.

2022 Polymer Poster Session

2022 Polymer Program Poster Session
IMS Polymer Program students display posters during 2022 Poster Session.

After two years of restrictions due to the COVID virus, the Polymer Program held its first in-person poster session since 2019. The event kicked off a 2-day open house for graduate student recruitment and also broke the long streak of virtual events.

Poster boards were dusted off and set up in the new Gant Complex Atrium, now called the “Light Court”, with a new collection of posters. Faculty and students expressed much gratification for the escape from the cyber world and return to the tradition of in-person discussions. Despite the masks, the smiles could be seen and the joy of the event could be felt by all.

A few faculty and students passing through the area felt the magnetic pull of the science talk and enthusiastically joined the fun. The event included 15 posters from polymer research laboratories, more than two dozen students, five visiting prospective students, and faculty from four departments. While the times change and technology evolves, it will be difficult to replace the glory of a traditional poster session.

2022 Polymer Program Poster Session
Students speaking with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke during 2022 Poster Session.

Polymer Program Student Selected for 100Plus Scholarship

Polymer Program Graduate Student John ToribioPolymer Program student, John M. Toribio was awarded this year’s Student Scholarship from 100Plus, a US based organization that provides remote patient monitoring for chronic patients. Student applicants needed to submit a presentation answering the question, “How will remote patient monitoring technology advance in the future to provide better health for the patients?” John received a $2,000 prize and his presentation can be found on the 100Plus Website at the following link:

John is a 2nd year Chemistry Ph.D. student in the Sotzing Research Group working on the development of wearable electronic devices for health applications as well as synthesis and applications of cannabinoid polymers.

Recent Ph.D. Graduate Reflects on Experience as IMS Polymer Program Student

Dr. Deepthi Varghese
Dr. Deepthi Varghese

After completing a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry from St. Josephs Arts & Science College in Bangalore, India, Deepthi Varghese joined the UConn Chemistry graduate program in the fall semester of 2014. After hearing brief research presentations from the chemistry departmental faculty, she became interested in Polymer Science with Prof. Douglas Adamson, an unexpected diversion from her initial plans for a career in biochemistry into a field in which she had no experience.

Although the lack of experience created a steep learning curve, Deepthi embraced this new research direction. While she faced challenges during the first two years, looking back, Deepthi says that she gained far more knowledge than expected, including polymer science, electro chemistry, and setting up scientific research laboratories.

Deepthi also struggled with many challenges regarding science including the fact that experiments are more likely to fail than succeed; science takes far more time than initially expected; and there is never enough time to accomplish everything. Lessons like this can be applied to all aspects of life, business, and art, as well as science.

In addition to the science, Deepthi has increased her knowledge of communications, independent learning, and keeping an open mind to feedback from all sources. She realized that you never know who will have valuable knowledge.

“Keeping an open ear and open mind allows you to learn from faculty, technicians, graduate students, and undergraduate students as well,” Deepthi says. She noted that undergraduates, especially those from outside disciplines, are also able to contribute bits of knowledge to the scientific challenges of the day.

Deepthi became involved with UConn organizations, the South Asia Community (Tarang) and the Graduate School Senate, where she was treasurer and president, respectively. This experience helped her learn organizational leadership.

Looking back on her graduate experience at UConn, Deepthi says that she grew as a scientist as well as a person. She had a number of unexpected experiences that changed her in many ways, all positive. In November, 2019, Deepthi started her professional career as a TD Etch Module Engineer at Intel, Hillsboro, Oregon.

Sonia Chavez Receives the LSAMP Fellowship

By Kelly A. Salzo

Sonia Chavez
Sonia Chavez

Graduate Student Sonia Chavez of the IMS Polymer Program has received the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) fellowship. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), this program provides continued support for students who participated in an LSAMP program during their undergraduate, offering up to two additional years of STEM education at the graduate level.

Sonia’s fellowship is part of LSAMP’s initiative to encourage and support “historically under-represented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.” During her undergraduate studies at DePaul University, Sonia became involved with the Chicago Initiative for Research and Recruitment in Undergraduate Science (CIRRUS), NSF’s STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), and the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Each organization shares a common goal to increasing the number of students graduating with STEM degrees, particularly students from populations currently underserving in these fields.

Sonia’s participation within these programs has provided her with opportunities to attend and organize support workshops for under-represented students. Additionally, she helped implement outreach activities to expose inner city children to science. By being awarded the LSAMP fellowship, Sonia hopes to continue her outreach and professional development, while devoting the rest of her time to

Graduate Student Feature: Garrett Kraft

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Garrett Kraft
Garrett Kraft

“One of the things I really like about working in the polymer industry is that you can make a material that is tangible and has unique properties which make it different from any other material that’s out there,” Garrett explains. “This creates the opportunity to construct high performance materials for very specific applications.”

IMS graduate student Garrett Kraft realized his passion for polymer science while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. After receiving his degree, Garrett sought out schools with strong polymer science programs and UConn’s prestigious Polymer Program caught his eye.

During his three years at in the IMS Polymer Program, Garrett has worked on a number of research projects under the direction of Dr. Douglas Adamson, which include developing adhesives that selectively bind particles in a complex mixture, investigating the use of synthetic non-peptide based polymers to mimic the catalytic activity of proteins, and exploring the applications of two-dimensional materials in polymer composites. He is also currently working on a project with ExxonMobil, creating polymers with a very narrow polydispersity and complex architectures.

Garrett attributes his current success in the field to being open to change. The materials science industry is in constant flux due to innovations in technology, which is one of the aspects of materials science he finds most compelling. “Research is always evolving and you are always finding new skills to develop,” Garrett says. He also finds his communication skills crucial to his success in the lab, as well as his constant curiosity.

In the future, Garrett is interested in pursuing green technology, specifically deriving or isolating monomers from biological feedstocks and creating materials which can break down naturally. Finite petroleum resources and environmental concerns make this area of research very appealing to polymer scientists.

Besides conducting graduate research, Garrett serves as president of the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) student chapter. Under Garrett’s direction, the UConn chapter recently applied for official status as a student chapter and since then, the student chapter garnered support from the National chapter, including a visit from the CEO and financial support. Very recently, the organization received national recognition and has been awarded the Outstanding Student Chapter Award which Garrett will receive at the ANTEC conference in Orlando, Florida at the end of the month. Garrett also spearheaded the initiative to make UConn’s chapter more engaging for its members by organizing plant tours and research seminars. “We have also been trying to connect more with alumni,” Garrett explains. “Two previous alumni came in and gave us insight on what they are doing currently, what exactly happens after grad school, and how the job searching process works so students can see what they can do with their degree.”

When asked what advice he would give to other students pursuing a career in material science, Garrett says: “Always keep on exploring. Try to find more information about areas you are interested in by talking to different people, whether they are students, faculty, or people in industry. Hopefully by talking to different people, you discover something you find fascinating enough to research for your Ph.D.”

IMS Hosts SPE CT Section February Meeting

By Kelly A. Salzo

 SPE officers, SPE CT-section members, students and faculty
Left to Right: Richard Nunn*, Robert Hammond*, Mark Corbett*, Lalit Mahajan, James Martin*, YoungHee Chudy, Russell Broome+, Sarah Sullinger+, Greg Treich, Sue Wojnicki+, Garrett Kraft, Associate Professor Luyi Sun. (*SPE CT section members; +SPE National Office)

The Polymer Program and the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers student chapter co-sponsored the SPE CT section February meeting on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015. Three officers from the SPE CT section and four members of the SPE national office attended the meeting.

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), an international organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and education for all plastics professions, organizes a monthly meeting to discuss recent developments within the organization. The UConn SPE chapter was selected to host the February meeting.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Mr. Russell Broome, the SPE Managing Director, entitled, “From a College Student to a Young Professional to an Industry Veteran” offering valuable advice to current students interested in a career in industry. Following the presentation a number of exciting announcements were made. First, the SPE Connecticut Section announced their plans to sponsor a student to attend the ANTEC and NPE national conference in Orlando, Florida, March 23rd through 25th. The SPE headquarters also expressed their intentions to partner with industry to sponsor students, eliminating the student membership fee. The current trial phase has seen student membership double over the past 6 months. Additionally, Russell Broome and SPE headquarters revealed their new networking and social media tool called the Chain. Inspired by LinkedIn, the Chain is an online forum divided into several communities including technical and social topics, and career connections with the goal to connect plastic professionals with an easy to navigate interface.

Around 40 students attended the meeting, interested in the opportunity to learn about new developments in the polymer and plastics industry in Connecticut and network with industry professionals on the SPE national board.

In addition to hosting the SPE February meeting the UConn student chapter has also organized various events and activities including tours of local plants in the industry and outreach programs increasing education in polymers from elementary school through high school. During the Polymer Program Seminar Series, SPE members volunteer by supervising equipment and setting up refreshments. Additionally, the organization arranges the SPE Student Seminar Series that invites field leaders, senior students and postdoctoral fellows from the Southern New England area to present on polymer related topics.

For more information on becoming a student member please contact the UConn SPE student president, Garrett Kraft.