Wireless electric vehicle charging via space-based power generation, the creation of an interactive, 3D cubic liquid crystal display, and a new approach to measuring ultra-short optical pulses using machine learning are just some of the innovative ideas pitched by Master of Materials Science students during the program’s recent research showcase.
The Materials Science graduate program, offered jointly by Trent and Ontario Tech University, attracts graduate students who want to investigate matter and materials at the intersection of chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering. There is also a strong focus on building students’ communication skills, especially when it comes to communicating their science aims.
Program director, Dr. Bill Atkinson believes events such as the research showcase not only help build these critical skills but provide a fantastic platform for students to share their research interests, find a sense of community, and gain new perspectives.
“Materials science is a huge field, and it is really easy to become siloed in your work,” Professor Atkinson explains. “To find a common language that we can all speak to each other is not trivial. That’s what makes this program and events like the research showcase special. It allows us to see where our areas of research overlap and what we have in common.”
This year’s event featured two new components – a Crazy Idea Forum and a professional development session with Trent’s Careerspace.
Thinking outside the box
The Crazy Idea Forum gave students the opportunity to step outside the scope of their research and apply their subject knowledge to explore an innovative new material solution, which they then presented to the broader group. Five students presented their “crazy ideas”.
“I think the session was a really great way to get people to think more broadly,” shares Kelly Wright, who pitched affordable customizable saddle pads for equine enthusiasts as a crazy idea. “It makes you think how you would apply the material science knowledge that you've gained here at Trent and how you would use that to make new materials."
Sharing the secret to networking success
Careerspace offered an interactive workshop on effective networking, identifying one’s unique skillset, and crafting a compelling elevator pitch – all valuable skills as these students prepare to enter the workforce and present their research.
“Students are often so focused on their research and thesis that they don’t really think about how to talk about what they do outside of the very narrow context of their research environment,” explains Prof. Atkinson. “Because they're so focused on their graduate work, they often don't realize the amazing skillset they have acquired.”