Advanced Materials Manufacturing — Liam Russell
Alumnus Story — Liam Russell
Liam came to the program with an undergraduate degree in materials engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He held numerous intern positions over the course of his degree, with many of them in the field of electrochromics, giving him significant experience testing new formulations of thin films for their chemical, optical and electrical properties. His minor in Science, Technology & Society speaks to his multidisciplinary interests, adding a social and political context to engineering and technology to balance “the people side” of the equation.
Learning from industry leaders
“The technical classes were definitely an opportunity to work at a higher level and an opportunity to expand my knowledge,” says Liam. “Learning from engineers who had led significant projects in materials engineering and industry was a definite highlight.”
“In Case Studies in Advanced Materials Manufacturing, for example, we worked through the decision-making process and implications of replacing a steel door with an aluminum door; what made this particularly interesting was that we were taught by the engineer who had overseen this material transition at Ford for the F-150.”
“I also really enjoyed the life-cycle assessment case where we conducted a full assessment on how material choices affect the life of the product and its embodied energy,” he says. “Material selection has a significant impact on the sustainability of products, so making decisions with that more complete perspective is important work for the future.”
In another course, he and his student colleagues worked thermal modelling and forming operations including the case of aluminum wheel casting and deep drawing.
In addition to the technical courses, about 50% of the MEL curriculum focuses on business and leadership, with courses taught by faculty at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School of Business. Liam says the classes provided a useful overview of management and leadership while giving him “the vernacular to speak confidently about business cases, strategy and decisions.”
Innovative electives and endeavours
Liam chose the Creative Destruction Lab as one of his business electives. This course brings together students from UBC’s MBA program, the MEL and the Master of Health Leadership and Policy program to work with emerging science and technology startups that are participating in – or hoping to participate in – Creative Destruction Lab West.
He worked with a company developing technology to test lithium batteries while they are in formation cycling. “Their device aims to replace an existing process step that has to be done, while also offering greater insight into the quality of the battery. I did an analysis of their market, the potential strategic beachheads and customers they should pursue. I also built out some calculations on what kinds of cost-savings their clients could expect from using this product.”
With a keen interest in zero-waste processes, Liam also joined UBC’s Wastenauts and the Melt Collective, a student-led design team that uses waste stream materials to develop new products. The team has created machines to sort, shred, and melt plastic waste, and built new products through extrusion and injection moulding. He continues to be active with the group, advising injection moulding projects, and processing and testing procedures to divert downcycling of polymer products.
Ready to lead tech transfer initiatives
After completing his coursework in December 2019, Liam spent six months working as a research engineer for a Vancouver-based company developing electrochromics windows for applications in the residential, commercial and automotive sectors. He worked on research and development and evaluated strategies for the company to meet its product development goals. Liam is now looking for a position where he can apply his wide-ranging materials engineering knowledge and business skills to help companies bring new and innovative technologies to market.
“I enjoyed my year as an MEL student for both the learning environment and for the opportunity to live in a new place and meet students from around the world with many different professional backgrounds and perspectives,” he says. “At the end of the day, this was a positive experience. It’s not so much the piece of paper, but the people you meet, the things you learn from them and stretching your limits in new ways.”
Advanced Materials Manufacturing
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