uc davis materials science engineering undergraduate spotlight sevag momjian
Sevag Momjian receives a department citation for excellence in the MSE undergraduate program. Photo: Sara Sweeney/UC Davis.

Student Spotlight: Sevag Momjian

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering interviewed a few members of the undergraduate Class of 2022 to learn more about them and their experiences at UC Davis and celebrate their accomplishments. The transcript has been lightly edited for style and clarity.

What got you interested in materials science and engineering?

I’ve always been curious about the world around me. The “stuff” most observable to us naturally are materials: paper clips, magnets, glass etc. As a child, I would ask “why is glass transparent?” or “how do magnets work?” or “why does a paper clip get hot when you bend it?” In search of the answers, I naturally stumbled upon materials science and engineering and I haven’t looked back since.

What’s your favorite part about the field? 

I love how interdisciplinary and fundamental the ideas that we explore are. Because everything uses materials, our field spans from metals to plastics and from prosthetics to computer chips. Fundamentally, our field aims to understand – down to the atomic level—how its functionality is determined (science) and can be manipulated (engineering) based on the structure of the material, the way it was processed and its intrinsic properties.

Along with this, I believe that the problems materials scientists seek to answer are extremely profound. We work at the forefront of renewable energy and energy storage through solar cells, and batteries, respectively. To see what my peers do in this sector is inspiring.

Are there any professors, classes, organizations or activities at UC Davis that have made a particular impact on you? 

uc davis materials science engineering undergraduate spotlight sevag momjian
Momjian pulls out a ceramic pellet after sintering from a tube furnace in Professor Ricardo Castro's lab. Photo: Reeta Asmai/UC Davis.

There have been so many things that have impacted me at UC Davis, but I think the most impactful is my undergraduate research. From very early in my freshman year, I had the opportunity to be mentored by a visiting professor, João Rodrigues Neto, on how to do research, which was so critical to my future successes.

Being able to work independently starting my sophomore year really helped me grow as a researcher and learn how to conduct efficient and successful research. Our lab’s P.I., Professor [Ricardo] Castro was always really supportive of me, helped me throughout my research and pushed me to pursue a career in academia. He also instilled in me many of his philosophies on how he believes research should be conducted. The graduate students in the group were also so kind and answered all the questions I would bug them about.

Apart from research, I’ve been active in the Armenian Students Association at UC Davis, which really helped me stay connected to my roots, and make a number of lifelong friends.

What are your post-graduation goals?

I’ll be pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. I hope that their Ph.D. program will prepare me to continue my career in academia and pursue future career positions there.

Do you have any hobbies? 

I really enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes. I’ve always found that being in the kitchen is kind of like being in a lab – except you can eat what you make! There’s a lot of chemistry that goes on behind browning food or creating emulsions and I think it’s quite fun to explore this through cooking and “analyzing results” through tasting! I also really enjoy playing sports and will try to find free time to play tennis, soccer or table tennis!

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