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New funding program creates more research co-op opportunities in Materials Science and Engineering departmentJune 30, 2021

Hatem Zurob, professor and chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster, inspires the launch of a new funding program to encourage more students to pursue a career in materials engineering.

Finding a crucial first job in engineering can be challenging. Hatem Zurob has launched a new initiative in his department to change that. He wants to grow the number of undergraduate researchers they hire, help them gain work experience so they are ready for a career in materials engineering once they graduate.

Zurob’s passion for his cause is clear. He kick-started the initiative with a personal donation. Now, Zurob and the department have launched an iFundMac campaign to support opportunities for undergraduate materials engineering students and to build their experience in a research co-op.

“I want to hire more students that have just completed their first year, give them the chance to experience research, give them the chance to build up their skills,” says Zurob. “And I believe once they have this first opportunity the rest will build on that. It will open up more job opportunities and allow them to build an amazing career.”

Zurob’s connection to the materials department at McMaster runs deep. He studied with the department for both his Bachelor of Engineering and his PhD, which he completed in 2003.

After two years of post-doctoral research in France, he returned to McMaster as an assistant professor. Many of his colleagues were previously his instructors and mentors and he’s both thrilled and intimidated to be carrying the legacy of the department forward.

As a multi-disciplinary field, materials engineering incorporates an array of research and development methods you might expect to see used by engineers and scientists across a several fields.  Students working in the lab may gain experience with electron microscopy, nanomaterials, biomaterials, metallurgy, and much more.

In recent years, the Materials Engineering department has experienced significant growth. In 2021, the department is welcoming 73 undergraduate students, up from 20 in 2018. Equally impressive is that for the last 3 years, the incoming class has been gender balanced. Best-in-class facilities like the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy have further enabled the program to grow and attract students.

Research co-ops often result in undergraduate students becoming co-authors of research papers and occasionally their names are included on patent applications. Students who have participated in these co-ops often go on to land great industry co-ops in following years and they may choose to pursue graduate studies after completing their BEng. Zurob wants to be able to hire any promising students looking for summer work.

“Undergraduate researchers are an essential part of our research team at the department. They come with creativity, enthusiasm, and dedication. They produce amazing results. Last year, 10 peer reviewed papers were co-authored with contributions from undergraduate researchers,” Zurob confirmed.

Breakthroughs in materials engineering lead to advancements in virtually every industry. For example, they may lead to new biomedical technologies, improved semi-conductors and microprocessors, longer-lasting car components, stronger structural steels, or lighter, more durable components for satellites and space vehicles.

You can support this program by making a donation on their iFundMac page.