Zachary Wolff has always been interested in the STEM fields. In fact, in high school in his hometown of Las Vegas, Wolff spent four years studying biotechnology, an academic course that would indirectly lead him to his ultimate career choice.
“At the end of that, I found that I liked the technology part more than the bio part,” he explained.
With that self-realization, Wolff came to the University and dove into his studies in engineering.
“It was really a stroke of luck that I found material sciences and engineering,” he said. “I wanted to pick something interesting and challenging, and I loved it. I haven’t regretted it any semester so far.”
With single-minded focus, Wolff threw himself into his studies, combining a dedication in the classroom and laboratory with a drive to gain real-world experience through internships at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). For the NNSS, Wolff has performed research designed to understand the properties of materials at extremely high temperatures, like those found under the earth’s crust.
Now in the final year in his bachelor’s program, Wolff’s dedication and hard work are bearing fruit: He was recently named the recipient of the Light Metals Division Scholarship from the Minerals, Metals & Materials (TMS) Society.
“School has been everything to me,” Wolff said. “I hold it to a very high standard, and I have had tunnel vision since I started. I have put in the work, and it is great to have the recognition of the [materials science] community for the effort.”
A national society of material engineers, TMS offers only ten scholarships nationwide. One of the other nine was awarded to Wolff’s classmate, Alexander Goldman, who earned the Materials Processing & Manufacturing Division Scholarship.
“I’m blown away by getting the scholarship,” Goldman said. “I had some doubts that I could win it, but I had helpful mentors who pushed me to try.”
A Sacramento, Calif. native, Goldman knew he wanted to come to Nevada for his college education. But it wasn’t until he went to a recruitment event and met Professor Dev Chidambaram that he considered materials science.
“All the different engineering disciplines were represented, and I enjoyed them all. But at the last table was Dr. Dev,” Goldman said. “He was soft-spoken but passionate, and he told me every company needs a materials science engineer. If you want to build a new product, it has to be built of materials. Materials science is about how we make those materials better: lighter, more recyclable, more user-friendly.”
For Goldman, studying materials science is a route to his lifelong love: aerospace engineering.
“I’ve always dreamed of working for NASA, Aerojet, Boeing, and more recently, SpaceX,” he said. “Basically, I’ve always loved anything that flies.”
When he talks about the development of space-age materials, Goldman’s enthusiasm and knowledge are undeniable.
“NASA has done game-changing research,” he said. “One of my favorite examples is the material on the tiles of space shuttles. If you were to take one of those panels off and put it in your oven at 500 degrees, it would glow red. But you could safely touch it with your bare hands because the material was designed to transfer heat so slowly. Things like that keep me in love with the subject.”
Beyond the classroom, Goldman works in the DeLaMare Library, helping patrons produce prototypes with 3D printers and run the laser cutter. Goldman’s position in the engineering library allows him to fulfill one of his biggest goals in pursuing a career in engineering: Helping others. His desire to make the world a better place extends to the kind of research he is pursuing as an undergraduate. While studying for a minor in batteries and renewable energy storage technologies, under the mentorship of Professor Dhanesh Chandra, he is doing research on hydrogen storage for energy applications.
In addition to his scholarship, Goldman serves as treasurer for the University’s chapter of Material Advantage, a national society of materials science and engineering students. In his role, he is organizing for members and interested engineering students to join in a bladesmithing competition at the TMS 2021 conference, slated to be held in Orlando, Fla. With support from their scholarships, both Goldman and Wolff will not only travel to the TMS conference for free as sponsored guests of TMS but will both participate in the bladesmithing competition.
Material Advantage faculty advisor and Assistant Professor Yufeng Zheng said, “I am very proud of Zachary and Alexander from our UNR Material Advantage chapter winning these TMS scholarships. I believe despite being a relatively new chapter, we have shown great promise that the UNR Material Advantage chapter can make a tremendous impact on our students and department. I look forward to more success of the students in our chapter in the future.”
Jeffrey LaCombe, chair of the Department of Chemical and Material Engineering, added, “The success of students like Zachary and Alexander is a testament to their hard work in a challenging and vital discipline. We are proud of them, and we look forward to the long and productive careers they have ahead of them.”