MSE Celebrates the Career of Professor Sangtae Kim

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering celebrates the career of Professor Sangtae Kim, who retired in June 2021. In 17 years at UC Davis, Kim established himself as an expert in electrochemistry and thermodynamics in research and teaching, a tough but patient mentor and a friend and colleague who cared deeply about the success of his students.

Student Spotlight: Ethan Suwandi

One of materials science and engineering major Ethan Suwandi’s favorite things to do is “nerd out” about materials with his friends, classmates and professors at UC Davis.

“It’s very cathartic, at least for me,” he said. “Materials is a niche topic that you can’t discuss with many people, so I think all of us would take the chance to say, ‘look at this cool thing I found’ or ‘look at this cool thing I’m researching and let me tell you all about the mechanisms behind it!’”

Student Spotlight: Griffin Hart

Recent materials science and engineering graduate Griffin Hart ’21 used UC Davis to try college a second time and was able to make the most of his experience.

Hart started college at Humboldt State University, but didn’t know what he wanted to do. This made him feel unmotivated and that was reflected in his grades, so he moved home and enrolled in community college. He became interested in sustainability and through his calculus, physics and chemistry classes, he began to see how much he could do with math and science.

Alumni Spotlight: Valerie Gibson ’86, ‘00

Valerie Gibson ’86, ‘00 has forged a successful career in the aerospace industry through her passion and experience with materials science and engineering she acquired at UC Davis.

Gibson is a principal propulsion engineer in the engine group at Blue Origin, a private aerospace manufacturing company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The company is a leader in the private spaceflight industry and made headlines in summer 2021 with its first crewed suborbital flight.

Student Spotlight: Miranda Bell

Fourth-year materials science and engineering (MSE) major Miranda Bell’s experience at UC Davis was defined by a little of everything as she narrowed down her broad interests while learning how the world works.

Student Spotlight: Nicole Shuman

Fourth-year materials science and engineering (MSE) major Nicole Shuman found materials science as a returning college student and is determined to use her knowledge to inspire others through outreach, teaching and mentorship.

Shuman started her career managing a multimillion-dollar big box retail company in the Los Angeles area. After 15 years, she moved to the Sacramento area for a job, but it fell through, and she found herself missing the connections she had and looking for a new opportunity.

Ricardo Castro and the Science of Superheroes

Materials science and engineering (MSE) professor Ricardo Castro may not be as much of a “mad scientist” as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but he does dare to ask intriguing questions like, “why must Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) be thought of as a fictional item, unachievable in the real world?”

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Beeman ‘17

Materials science and engineering alumna Emily Beeman ’17 draws on her UC Davis experience every day as she helps keep UC Berkeley’s Marvell Nanofabrication Lab running.

Student Spotlight: Yiqing Xia

Materials science and engineering (MSE) Ph.D. student Yiqing Xia has been chosen as a presenter for the 2021 North American Materials Colloquium Series, a competitive virtual materials science seminar series involving over 35 MSE programs from around the country. He will present his recent research on the thermodynamic and kinetic behavior of nano-confined liquids on April 8-9, representing UC Davis, the MSE department and his research on confined liquids and glassy materials.

Student Spotlight: Weidi Zhu

Recent materials science and engineering (MSE) Ph.D. graduate Weidi Zhu had never worked with glasses before coming to UC Davis, but through research projects with Blacutt-Underwood Professor Sabyasachi Sen, he developed an interest in the material that turned into a career with Apple. As the world becomes “smart,” Zhu hopes to use what he learned at UC Davis to contribute to the science behind the glassy materials that will become increasingly important to the world.

Student Spotlight: Raegan Taylor

For fourth-year materials science and engineering major Raegan Taylor, engineering is a means to understand and contribute to the world around her. Driven by a desire to help people, she has used her curiosity about the world and her research experience to build a strong foundation in engineering as she pursues a career in optical engineering.

“I see engineering as an avenue to learn about the world and round out my interests in a way that’s beneficial to other people,” she said.

Student Spotlight: Louie Zhong

Fourth-year materials science and engineering major Louie Zhong looks to the ultra-small and ultrafast to make a big impact on the world. Though he has always liked math, engineering and chemistry, Zhong explains his interest in materials science with the James Joyce quote, “In the particular is contained the universal.” Ever since a high school teacher introduced him to the quote, it’s become a way for him to think about his interest in materials, and in science in general.

Student Spotlight: Ian Phillips

Becoming an engineer was a natural choice for fourth-year materials science and engineering major Ian Phillips.  He grew up working on cars with his dad, giving him a love of hands-on work and problem solving he’s taken with him throughout his time at UC Davis, from studying semiconductors and ceramics at UC Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to teaching shop tools at the UC Davis D-Lab.