MSE Graduate Student Profile: Sabrina Curtis

We chatted with Sabrina to learn more about her experience in the MSE graduate program and to find out why she chose UMD for her studies.

- Hometown: Aurora, CO
- B.S. in Materials Science, UMD
- Advisor: Marina Leite


Why did you choose to study at the University of Maryland?

"Originally, I wanted to major in aerospace engineering, but I realized I like chemistry better than physics. A friend in civil suggested I talk to MSE because it's an interdisciplinary major spreading over many fascinating topics that would meet my interests. After talking with Dr. Kathleen Hart my sophmore year, I was sold on materials engineering!" 

MSE graduate Student, Sabrina Curtis

My senior year of high school (in Aurora, Colorado), my mom was offered a job in Rockville, Maryland. She asked me to move with her to help take care of my sister. I applied to UMD because it was the best engineering school in the state.

How did you learn about MSE, and why did you decide to major in it?

Originally, I wanted to major in aerospace engineering, however, I quickly realized I like chemistry better than physics. A friend in civil suggested I talk to the MSE department because it is an interdisciplinary major spreading over many fascinating topics that would meet my interests. After talking with Dr. Kathleen Hart my sophomore year, I was sold on materials engineering!  

Have you conducted any on- or off-campus research? 

Yes! On campus I studied the electrical properties of hydrogels under Prof. Jeff Davis in Organic Chemistry. Off campus, I researched alternative recycling methods of metals at the Colorado School of Mines. At Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, I explored redox flow batteries for grid energy storage. The research for my master's degree is executed at the Army Research Lab, and is focused on fabricating and characterizing stretchable crystalline materials for wearable electronics.

How has your research affected your undergraduate experience or plans for the future?

My positive prior research experiences drove me to enroll in the 5 year M.S/B.S program in our department. In my 4th year of the program, the Army Research Lab hired me as master’s student to work on a stretchable electronics project. During this time, I led a capstone senior design team, developing stretchable silicon solar cells. Our invention from this project was recognized as a finalist by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The exciting diverse research projects I’ve worked on and their various successes drive me to continue in career path as a research scientist. 

What has been your favorite class, and why?

Advanced Smart Materials with Prof.  Manfred Wuttig. In this course we explore fundamental concepts and applications of coupling materials properties (such as electricity, magnetism, stress, strain, etc) to create multifunctional smart materials. Dr. Wuttig is an expert in this field, and he did a fantastic job presenting his high-level knowledge in an understandable, interesting and engaging way.

What's the best piece of advice you would give to another student, especially one thinking of majoring in MSE?

My biggest piece of advice is get into research or an internship as early as possible! A great resource to definitely take advantage of the engineering career centers on campus. All three of my paid internships came from job announcements sent by the engineering career center. 

What do you do outside of class and the lab?

I love the outdoors! I enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, swimming, and snow-boarding. While I am in school, I like to go to the yoga classes at Eppley as well. 

What would you like to do after graduation?

After I graduate this May, I will be pursing a PhD in MSE. Plans are still not definite, but I will most likely study multifunctional smart materials at the University of Kiel in Germany!