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Spotlight: Industry partnerships give students a competitive edge

January 13, 2022
UBC MEL - AMM Spotlight

By Casey Keulen, Assistant Professor of Teaching in the Department of Materials Engineering and program director of the MEL in Advanced Materials Manufacturing.

In 2022, the Master of Engineering Leadership in Advanced Materials Manufacturing is entering its seventh year of educating professionals to become leaders in their field. And it’s an exciting time to pursue this unique graduate degree: over the past few years, UBC has invested in state-of-the-art labs and facilities, hired new instructors with impressive expertise in composites, metallurgy and biomaterials, and launched a new undergraduate degree in manufacturing engineering. Our master’s students benefit enormously from this dynamic research and learning environment.

As part of our commitment to ensuring our program’s curriculum evolves in line with students’ needs, starting in 2022, Advanced Materials Manufacturing students will complete a capstone project. This year-long project will enable them to apply the knowledge they’re learning in the classroom, gain industry experience and expand their professional network.

At the beginning of the year, I’ll meet with students to help them identify a capstone project based on our flexible project selection process. If a student comes to the program with an idea for a project in mind, we’ll work with them to make it happen. For those who are interested in working with a specific company or in a particular area, our instructors can help connect students to an industry partner and define project goals. And students can also choose a capstone project from a list developed by our faculty.

While the projects on this list will change from year to year, we’re aiming to offer a range of opportunities with local manufacturing companies.

This year, for example, students can choose from projects that include exploring options for using waste material from a bathroom appliance manufacturer (whether that be repurposing the waste material for a different product or returning it to the production stream), solving a production challenge faced by a company developing a fabric from thermoplastic polymers, or developing an injection molding process for a company that makes bionic power generators for patient devices.

Students can test their ideas and develop prototype solutions in our labs, where they have access to cutting-edge prototyping equipment that includes 3D printers, injection molding machines, metal-casting furnaces, mechanical press load frames and other processing equipment. Our lab technicians can provide any one-on-one training and instruction that wasn’t covered in the engineering courses.

Our program also supports students’ professional development through seminars that expand their knowledge and networks. Recently, for example, we’ve had a director of research and development for a local manufacturer come in to talk to students about the science and technical issues behind their product, as well as the production scale-up and marketing challenges that need to be considered. It’s through connections like these that our MEL students can better understand the complex balance of technical and business issues that need to be addressed in product development and manufacturing.

Acquiring both technical and business skills is at the heart of this degree.

In the business courses taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, our students gain the strategic business and communication skills they’ll need to move into management and leadership positions. This is complemented by our engineering courses, where students are exposed to the latest industry knowledge and become familiar with cutting-edge simulation tools. Electives in artificial intelligence, machine learning, clean manufacturing and biomedical equipment manufacturing also allow students to gain hands-on experience in some of the most in-demand areas in our industry.

We’re very excited about the evolution of our program and believe we offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity for professionals who are looking to acquire the skills and experience to take their careers in materials manufacturing in new directions.

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