Caitlin Healy graduated from the Bachelor of Engineering (Materials Science) (Honours) in 2013 with 1st Class Honours before going on to a PhD she completed in 2019. She now works as an Education Focused Lecturer in the School of Materials Science & Engineering UNSW.
Why did you choose to do a Materials Science degree?
Since being a child I have always wanted to be a scientist, however when I got into my later years of high school I also wanted to be an engineer. I didn't think that I could pursue both of these fields at once until I went to Open Day tent at the School of Materials Science & Engineering tent which showed me a new path that I could pursue both of my passions! I changed my UAC preferences and then started the Bachelor of Engineering (Materials Science) (Honours).
What was your experience being a Materials Science student?
I loved my time in the school! All the way back to orientation week - I made a group of friends that kept with me throughout my degree. I also thoroughly enjoyed the content and I became especially interested in phase diagrams finding alloys between the gaps of the phases melded with my love of problem solving. This also led me into an honours project with Professor Michael Ferry and Dr Kevin Laws on bulk metallic glasses an emerging new field of materials with exciting properties. In my summer break I had also been travelling through Europe and loved my time away in Germany and for my industrial placement I went back to Southern Germany at Darmstadt Unversity working on variable voltage resistors which was a really special experience!
After graduating how did your career path evolve?
After graduating, I decided to keep on pursuing research into alloys and undertook a PhD under the supervision of Professor Michael Ferry and Dr Kevin Laws focusing on high entropy alloys. It was an incredibly rewarding experience that saw me combine my love of travel with my research - seeing my complete a research project in ETH Zurich and then finally produce my thesis in the area of 'Development and Characterisation of Precious Metal Based High Entropy Alloys'. During my PhD, I also was a lab demonstrator and tutor, and I really loved this interaction with students and hearing the fascinating research questions they started to develop. Once I graduated from my PhD, I then got a position as an Education Focused Lecturer within the school which allows me to pursue my loves of research and teaching. I am enjoying this role and have big plans for the future of it, including the redesign of first year labs to make them as hands on and exciting as possible.
Have you got any particularly fond memories of your time at the school to share?
In my first year MATSOC was an incredibly buzzing and lively club and was a big part of my student experience - but by third year it had become smaller and wasn't doing as many activities as it once did. In fourth year, with a group of friends we formed the new executive and went about growing it and put on a bunch of events. It felt really good to bring it back up again!
Later during my PhD, we had a visiting academic from the United States who would come over to the school frequently and bring some of their students. We became really close friends and I have even been over to the States to visit them!
Do you have any advice for school leavers considering studying Materials Science at UNSW Sydney?
Make sure you come to Open Day! It is a great time to chat with students who currently study in a range of disciplines and you can also ask whichever nitty gritty questions you have for the academic who will be teaching you. Also, consider studying Engineering Studies as it give you a great background for your first year studies. Finally, start assignments early, so you have plenty of time to sort thing out before the deadline!