uc davis materials science engineering undergradaute student spotlight raegan taylor
Photo courtesy of Raegan Taylor.

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.

Taylor had been interested in engineering since high school and was drawn to materials science and engineering by an interest in what she calls “the chemistry of physics.”

“I thought that knowing the fundamentals of chemistry and physics was going to be really interesting for me, and it was,” she said. “I also knew materials science was going to be a good foundational basis of knowledge for any kind of engineering that I found interest in.”

Taylor is particularly interested in microstructures and fiber optical engineering. Coincidentally, one interest led to the other. After succeeding in assistant professor Roopali Kukreja’s “Structure and Characterization of Engineering Materials” class (EMS 162) about microstructures, she was offered a position in Kukreja’s lab, where she learned how to set up, use and read optical tables and advanced laser systems.

“You don’t really get to learn how to use lasers in your undergrad classes, so it was a cool experience,” she said.

Her experience led her to optical technology company LightRiver Technologies in Concord, where she interned for the last year of her undergraduate career. She likes the fact that she can use engineering principles she learned at Davis to support networks and basic infrastructural needs such as water and power.

“I think it’s really interesting how materials science and engineering works behind the scenes and takes on the responsibility for meeting people’s basic needs,” she said.

Outside of engineering, Taylor is a dog lover and art enthusiast. An art history minor, she spends her free time drawing, visiting art museums and reading about art history—particularly the Baroque period and architecture, which is where she feels her engineering and art worlds meet.

She has also become an advocate for mental health, especially in a demanding field like engineering. It’s something she plans to take with her after graduation and pass on to her peers.

“Make sure you take care of yourself as well as focusing on your studies,” she said. “Try not to take yourself too seriously and hold onto your values. If you come in with a desire to help people, make sure to remember that.”

After graduation, Taylor will be working full time at LightRiver as she builds her engineering career. Though she plans to stick with fiber optic engineering, she feels confident that she has the background she needs to succeed in anything she sets her mind to.

“I feel like my degree has definitely opened up the door to anything I find interest in and provides a good foundational basis of knowledge for any kind of engineering,” she said.

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