MSE Undergraduate Student Profile: Eric Bailey

Clark School Ambassador Eric Bailey has been named a Philip Merrill Presidential Scholar and has received the Accenture Leadership Scholarship, the Lockheed Martin Corporate Partners Scholarship, and a SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship. He is a member of the A. James Clark School of Engineering Honors Program; the QUEST Honors Program; Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honors society; Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honors society; honor society Alpha Lambda Delta; and Virtus, the Living and Learning Community for Success in Engineering. He has also appeared on the Clark School's Dean's List.

We chatted with Eric to learn more about his experiences in the undergraduate program in materials science and engineering, and to find out why he chose the University of Maryland for his studies.

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

"Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can...It's important to challenge yourself every day and continuously step outside of your comfort zone...Above all, make sure you find a way to enjoy the process of learning and growing."

Materials Science and Engineering Undergraduate Student Eric Bailey

It took me a while to choose UMD, but I'm glad that I did. A huge factor in my decision was cost, and Maryland provides a great education for an affordable price. I was also attracted to how many opportunities, both academic and social, a large school like UMD has to offer. Maryland has a lot of school spirit and sports are a big deal on campus, and I wanted to be in an environment like that.

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

I didn’t know what MSE was when I applied to the University of Maryland so I came in as a chemical engineer. After looking over each major’s curriculum more thoroughly, speaking with my Introduction to Engineering Design (ENES 100) professor, and attending Clark School lectures and workshops, I found that Materials Science and Engineering was a better match for me. I liked the idea of specializing within the major as well as the freedom in course selection that the MSE curriculum offers. MSE was described to me as the bridge between the fundamental sciences and the engineering disciplines, and I felt like that would provide me with a unique skillset that would prepare me for a variety of jobs. The MSE department is one of the smallest in the Clark School, meaning it is a tight community with a low faculty to student ratio, both of which were also appealing to me.

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

I have had several research opportunities at UMD and off-campus. After my freshman year, I worked at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., where I studied the solar cycle by analyzing and manipulating irradiance data. When I returned to campus I wanted to be immersed in materials science and engineering research, so I began working on a project with Dr. Aris Christou in his Microelectronics Reliability Lab. Due to health and environmental issues, we are trying to eliminate the use of lead in the global electronics industry. I studied the fatigue reliability of a lead-free solder alloy by testing samples under various operating conditions and conducting microstructural analysis.

I had the opportunity to get experience in industry the following summer when I worked for W.L. Gore and Associates. I had a fantastic time in the Fabrics Division at Gore, which was a significantly different experience than on-campus research.

Since my lead-free solder project has been completed and is moving toward publication, I have started a new on-campus project in the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics working on photovoltaic devices (solar cells specifically) with Dr. Marina Leite. For this upcoming summer, I have accepted a research position at the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MIT. I am really looking forward to living in Cambridge and experiencing new research in another academic environment.

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

I have really enjoyed applying what I read about in textbooks and hear about in lectures to real-world applications. My research has also given me a much deeper understanding of several concepts and subjects, which has helped me in my classes. In addition, it's given me the opportunity to network within the department and Clark School, make some extra money to help fund my degree, and improve my communication skills through collaboration, [oral] presentations, and poster sessions. I am using my research and summer experiences to help me hone my career interests, so it has been extremely valuable in that regard as well.

What has been your favorite class, and why?

This is a tough question because I have yet to dislike a class, but my favorite one has probably been Materials Selection in Engineering Design (ENMA 489O). This was an application-based design class where we worked in groups to solve materials selection problems in various designs and products. We also got an excellent comprehensive overview of the functions, perks, and limits of each material class and learned valuable techniques and methods that will be useful throughout my career. One of our projects was to design two bikes, one that was ridiculously eco-friendly and one that was extremely cheap and durable. It was fun to explore the many possibilities and ideas and was interesting to see the different designs throughout the class. 

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

Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can. In other words, say yes. This will allow you to develop and strengthen your network of relationships, learn things beyond the engineering curriculum, become more well-rounded, open doors to new opportunities, and have fun. It's important to challenge yourself every day and continuously step outside of your comfort zone, and although it’s easier said than done, you cannot be afraid to fail. Above all, make sure you find a way to enjoy the process of learning and growing.

What do you do outside of class and the lab?

I've been a Clark School Ambassador, a tutor for the SEEDS Living and Learning Communities, a Teaching Assistant for Statics & Mechanics I (ENES102), and a Resident Assistant and tutor for the FYSE Summer Camp. Relating to MSE, I'm on the board of MatES, the Materials Engineering Society, and have been a member of the MSE Team in the Alumni Cup Competition for two years. I also am a member of the University of Maryland Juggling Club, play nearly every intramural sport, and frequently show my Maryland Pride at UMD sporting events.

What would you like to do after graduating?

I have been lucky enough to have excellent experiences in academic research as well as in an industrial setting. Unfortunately, this is making my decision a bit more difficult! I want to work for an innovative company that constantly challenges its employees and offers different problems to solve daily. I want to be in a new product development role that incorporates quality engineering principles. The more immediate question is whether I want to obtain my Ph.D. prior to entering industry. I am hoping that my experience this summer at MIT will help me decide what I want to do directly after graduation. My education and extra-curricular activities at Maryland have qualified me for many different opportunities and paths, so I am excited to begin whichever I choose to pursue.