Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Betts

Ryan BettsRyan Betts is a YSU STEM alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He began his higher education with a love of math, physics, and problem-solving; and through his coursework, he found new interests in computer-aided design and additive manufacturing.

In his junior year at YSU, Ryan began working as a lab assistant in the Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (CIAM) under his mentors, Dr. Brett Conner and lab manager Jay Wargacki. He used this position to enhance his classroom knowledge and to gain real-world experience for his future career.

Ryan now works as a design engineer under Dr. Kirk Rogers in the Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) at General Electric in Pittsburgh, PA.

“As a design engineer, I am responsible for designing functional mechanical parts to be printed on the several 3D printers we have at our site,” he said. “We are capable of 3D printing parts out of several polymers, sands, and metal alloys, each possessing their own unique challenges in the design phase.”

During his senior year, Ryan had expressed to Dr. Conner his interest in GE’s CATA, but he knew there were no available positions. Through some networking and determination, he was hired just before graduation when a position became available.

Ryan gave a little bit of advice to YSU STEM students so that they can find opportunities like he did:

“My advice to STEM freshmen would be to get involved with internships, on-campus employment, and/or research as soon as possible. These are great ways to enhance your skillsets and make your resume stand out to potential employers! I didn’t do myself any favors by keeping my high school job into my first two years of college and neither will you.

To the seniors, don’t wait until May to start looking for a full-time job or graduate school. It’s never too early to start networking with professionals or interviewing for positions you want to secure upon graduation. At this point, setting up and preparing for interviews/universities should be considered just as important as completing projects or studying for exams.”

You don’t have to be an engineer, or even a STEM student, to apply this advice to your own education and career options. It’s never too early to start networking and planning, just like Ryan said. You never know what kind of opportunity will open up if you prepare and wait for it.

Recent Graduate Jenna Wise Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship

Jenna Wise Awarded Phi Kappa Phi FellowshipJenna Wise has been awarded a Fellowship worth $5,000 by The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi—the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Wise is one of 57 recipients nationwide to receive a Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship.

Wise received bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematics from Youngstown State University. As a Phi Kappa Phi Fellow, she will pursue a Ph.D. in software engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Jenna was also recently awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which you can read about here. She was also one of the two Goldwater Scholars chosen from YSU last year along with Andrew Morgan. More information on that can be found at YSU News.

Since its creation in 1932, the Fellowship Program has become one of the Society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $345,000 annually to outstanding students for first-year graduate or professional study. Currently, 51 Fellowships of $5,000 and six of $15,000 are awarded each year.

The selection process for a Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.

In addition to the Fellowship Program, the Society awards $1.4 million each biennium to qualifying students and members through study abroad grants, dissertation fellowships, funding for post-baccalaureate development, member and chapter awards, and grants for local, national and international literacy initiatives.

Phi Kappa Phi was founded in 1897. Phi Kappa Phi inducts approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni annually. Membership is by invitation only to the top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students and 7.5 percent of juniors. The Society’s mission is “To recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.” For more information, visit www.PhiKappaPhi.org.

Alumni Spotlight: Michael Bellas

Michael BellasMichael Bellas graduated from YSU in May with a major in chemistry and minor in geology. He actually changed majors three times before finding his place in the chemistry department.

While at YSU, Michael made the most of the resources available to him. He worked on quite a bit of research with Dr. Genna and presented at YSU’s QUEST, the Pennsylvania-Ohio Border Section of the American Chemical Society at Westminster College, and the University of Akron’s Ohio Inorganic Weekend.

Interdisciplinary research is emphasized in the STEM College at YSU, and Michael has firsthand experience in this kind of research.

“This research often involved collaboration between departments (Chemistry, Physics, and Geology) as well as local industry, notably the Materials Research Laboratory in Struthers,” said Michael.

Michael was also very involved outside of the classroom, claiming membership in Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Alpha Lambda, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the YSU student chapter of the American Chemical Society (treasurer). He also worked on campus in the Center for Student Progress.

Currently Michael is interning at the University of Michigan in Dr. Melanie Sanford’s lab. In the fall he will begin working toward his PhD from the University of Michigan while undoubtedly pursuing more research opportunities.

“I am not really sure what I will do after that- whether I’ll end up in academia or industry,” said Michael. “I just want to do chemistry and have fun, that’s about the most honest answer I can give you!”

While reflecting on his time at YSU, Michael explains that he was given the best opportunities because the size of the STEM College is just right.

“The STEM program is large enough that I had access to the very same equipment being used at top 10 universities, like Columbia and Northwestern, yet small enough that the faculty could give me the hands on attention that fostered my success,” said Michael.

Check out Michael’s first publication in Inorganic Chemistry!

Michael K. Bellas, Joseph J. Mihaly, Matthias Zeller, and Douglas T Genna, “Anion-Cation Mediated Structural Rearrangement of 3-Dimensional Interpenetrated Metal-Organic Frameworks,” Inorganic Chemistry 2017, 56, 950-955.

Transforming the Future: Chemistry Graduate is Princeton-Bound

Tyler PabstTyler Pabst is a recent graduate from YSU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics.

A truly dedicated student, Tyler has been heavily involved in the Honors College and has also served as a trustee and treasurer for the University Scholars Program. Working in the Center for Student Progress and volunteering for a number of non-profit organizations in Youngstown further enriched his experiences during his time at YSU.

“I started college as a Biology major with the intent to go to medical school,” said Tyler, “but when I took organic chemistry the summer following my freshman year, I really fell in love with it and started thinking about becoming a scientist.”

After committing to chemistry, Tyler immediately became involved with Dr. Genna’s research group. This research led him to present results as far as Seattle, and he hopes to publish a full paper soon. Though his research was quite distinct from most of the other research in Dr. Genna’s group, it has left an impact.

“My work has also given rise to some new project ideas that the group will pursue in the future,” said Tyler.

Tyler will be attending Princeton in the fall to begin working on his PhD. He aspires to become a professor and lead his own research groups. For now he continues to work in the lab on organometallics research that may lead to publishing an in-depth paper.

Many YSU STEM students have expressed surprise and gratitude toward the availability of professors and research opportunities for undergraduate students, and Tyler is no exception.

“I think it was very valuable that, even as a 19-year-old undergrad who didn’t yet fully understand what I was doing, I could be trusted to just dive in to research,” said Tyler. “I think we’re in a sweet spot in terms of resources and accessibility of those resources.”

This commentary from Tyler sums it all up:

“I’ve thought recently about how I, as a high school senior who committed to YSU because it was my cheapest option, would react to the idea that I was headed to Princeton for a PhD in chemistry.  In all honesty, I did not expect to grow as much as I have in these four years, or to get such a world-class education, or to be in the position that I find myself in now.  I consider myself fortunate to be a YSU penguin at the best time ever to be one.  Our chemistry department is sending recent graduates to Notre Dame, Michigan, and Princeton this summer for PhDs.  I have friends going into engineering doctoral programs at UC-Berkeley and Yale, and still others working for Tesla, GE, and Google.  I’m so excited to see the amazing things YSU students do for years to come; I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re trending upward.”

We at YSU STEM congratulate Tyler on his accomplishments, wish him the best at Princeton, and look forward to hearing about his future successes.