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Materials Research Society

The Materials Research Society (MRS) chapter at UNC is a graduate student organization that is committed to fostering a community of collaboration, outreach and professional development. We organize seminars and a local poster competition to encourage sharing research. We are passionate about hosting and volunteering at a variety of new and annual outreach events to spread knowledge about materials science. For graduate student professional development, we coordinate panels and seminars to connect graduate students to industry and academic professionals. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, please contact us at!

Professional Development Events

MRS offers several events for graduate students to develop key skills and network with scientific professionals. Here are a few of the annual events that we host.

Materials Industry Career Panel
In collaboration with the APS department, MRS organizes the Materials Industry Career Panel, an opportunity for graduate students to learn from and network with representatives from a diversity of industry and national government positions. This event provides students a valuable opportunity to explore career paths outside of academia.

Triangle Student Research Competition (TSRC)
In October, MRS hosts the TSRC, a poster session and networking event for students in the Triangle to showcase their research, practice for national conferences, and compete for great prizes. Industry representatives from various companies attend and judge the poster session. Participants receive a door gift, dinner, drinks, the chance to win prizes based on judging, and the opportunity to network with industry sponsors from the surrounding area.

NSF GRFP Writing workshop
MRS also coordinates the NSF GRFP Peer Review Workshop for senior undergraduates and first/second year graduate students. During this event, NSF GRFP fellows meet 1-on-1 with applicants to provide feedback on their personal and research statements. In the past, approximately 20% of the applicants who attended this event were awarded NSF GRFP fellowships.

Outreach Opportunities

MRS is committed to promoting science education in our community, and our members take an active role in designing and coordinating outreach events. Here we highlight a few examples of the outreach opportunities (past and present) that we have developed.

Research Social with JSNN
For this event, UNC MRS members travel to Greensboro to visit the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), an academic collaboration between UNC Greensboro and NC A&T University. Members from both MRS chapters give 10-minute presentations of their research, followed by a shared pizza lunch. This event is a great opportunity to practice presentation skills in a low-stakes environment and build connections with other MRS chapters.

Material Science High School Days – For this event, we hosted over 50 high school students and their parents on campus to give them insight into what it is like to do research in materials science and how to get involved in research during high school and college. This has been one of our most popular events, and helped introduce students from diverse backgrounds to research opportunities and the importance of materials science.

UNC Science Expo – Each year, our chapter participates in the Science Expo, where over 10,000 people from the Triangle area come to UNC’s campus to learn about science. This event gives members the opportunity to interact with the broader community, introducing them to scientific concepts through fun demos.

Middle School Materials Science Days – This year, we are coordinating visits with middle schools in NC that have underfunded science programs. During these visits, we hope to build relationships with schools and teachers and help introduce students to new areas of science.

Letters to a Pre-Scientist – This pen pal program cultivates one on one relationships between students and real STEM professionals. We aim to humanize STEM professionals, demystify STEM career pathways, and inspire all students to explore a future in STEM by engaging middle school students in reading and writing during science class.


2023-2024 MRS Officers

Karen Ehrhardt headshotKaren Ehrhardt, President
I am a fourth-year graduate student in the Warren lab. My research focuses on amorphous 2D materials and characterizing them with a combination of electron diffraction and computational techniques. I majored in Chemistry at Carleton College for my undergraduate studies, where I researched thermite combustion mechanisms. In my free time, I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee and cooking.

Becca Radomsky Becca Radomsky, Vice-President
I am a fourth-year Chemistry Ph.D. Candidate in Warren Lab working on materials discovery for alternates to Li-ion batteries. I attended the University of Notre Dame for undergrad, where I got my degree in Chemistry with a minor in Science Policy. In my free time, I like to play golf, paint, read, and drink tea. Feel free to stop by the Warren Lab for a cup of tea with me sometime!

Don McTaggart headshotDon McTaggart, Treasurer
I’m a third-year student in the Warren Lab researching fluoride-ion battery electrode materials. I grew up near Asheville, NC and attended undergrad at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Outside of lab I enjoy playing soccer and pickleball, walking in the woods, reading, and cooking. If you’ve made it this far email me and I’ll Venmo you $1.

Maria Furukawa headshotMaria Furukawa, Secretary
I am a second-year graduate student in the Dingemans lab studying all-aromatic, liquid-crystal polyelectrolytes for separation technologies. I attended Georgia Tech for my undergrad in Atlanta, GA where I received my BS in chemistry with a polymer’s concentration. I worked for a few years as a researcher and chemist in industry before coming to UNC in 2022. In my free time, I like to play pickleball, run, and try out new food places in North Carolina!

Ashlee Falls headshotAshlee Falls, Social/Fundraising Chair
My name is Ashlee Falls, and I am a second-year analytical chemistry graduate student in the Baker Lab. I am analyzing the environmental class of toxins known as “PFAS” in Durham firefighters and other local civilians, and the effects of these toxins on their lipid profiles using a LC-IMS-MS platform. I grew up in Hickory, NC and received my BS in chemistry with a minor in mathematics from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. Outside of the lab, I enjoy long nature walks, trying local breweries, and am a HUGE Swiftie.

Alicia Bryan headshotAlicia Bryan, Outreach Chair #1
I’m a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Cahoon lab working on vapor-phase fabrication of hybrid perovskite materials. I was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA, and received my bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Old Dominion University. My passion for STEM education is what motivated me to run for a second term as MRS outreach co-chair this year, and I also serve on the officer board of UNC’s Science in the Stacks organization. When I’m not in the lab, I love spending my time rock climbing, reading, or drinking coffee!

Sam Weaver headshotSam Weaver, Outreach Chair #2
I am a second-year graduate student in Scott Warren’s Lab where I do computational research related to materials discovery. I attended Oberlin College and Conservatory where I got my BA in Chemistry and BM in Trombone Performance. In my free time I like to cook, bake bread, play chess, and hang out with my cat, Herbert Hoover. If you’ve made it this far, read Don’s bio. If you email him he’ll Venmo you $1.


Devon Leimkuhl headshotDevon Leimkuhl, Inorganic Chemistry Liaison
I am a second-year graduate student in the Jackson lab studying the electrochemistry of metal nanoparticles supported by insulating layers. I attended Colorado State University, where I got a degree in Chemistry with a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability. Outside of lab I enjoy arts and crafts, hiking, and spending time with my two cats (Pickle and Roy).

Kameryn Hinton headshotKameryn Hinton, APS Liaison
Kameryn is a 4th year PhD student from the Freeman Lab in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences. She graduated from Mercer University in Macon, GA in May 2020. She completed her undergraduate studies as a double major in Chemistry (B.S.) and Spanish with a minor in Biology. Outside of the lab, Kameryn enjoys creative outlets such as singing, writing poetry, as well as making her own plant-based cosmetic products.

Rob Castaneda headshotRob Castaneda, Physical Chemistry Liaison
I am a second year in the physical chemistry division, and I study semiconductors using ultrafast microscopy. I am from Kansas and I went to undergrad at the University of Kansas. I enjoy flying kites, riding bikes, and swimming.

Owen Courtney headshotOwen Courtney, Polymer/Materials Chemistry Liaison
I’m a 2nd year in the Cahoon Lab, and my project focuses on converting THz frequency waves into direct current using silicon nanowires (a Cahoon Lab specialty). This type of current rectification has applications for small electronic implants, imaging and security, and data transfer. I love nanowires a lot, they’re cool, small, interesting, tiny and cool, and they are made of silicon. Some say I’m a man of silicon. Some don’t. I’m from Pennsylvania and attended Penn State University for undergrad. In my free time I enjoy playing soccer, cooking new recipes, making jokes, and backpacking. Thank you for reading!

Jack Ryan headshotJack Ryan, Analytical Chemistry Liaison
I am a 4th year graduate student in Prof. Erin Baker’s lab, where my research is focused on developing methods to analyze a variety of biomolecules using our ion mobility spectrometry – mass spectrometry (IMS-MS) platform. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and went on to study chemistry at Boston College prior to grad school. In my free time I enjoy golfing and fishing.

Andrew Christy headshotAndrew Christy, Physics Liaison
I am a 2nd year Chemistry graduate student in the Zhang Lab in Physics and the Cahoon Lab in Chemistry, working on phonon-magnon coupling for applications in quantum computing. I attended the University of Notre Dame while majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Energy Studies. In my free time, I enjoy playing soccer, biking, and arguing about college sports.

Gabby Mascarin headshotGabi Mascarin, BBSP Liaison
I’m Gabi Mascarin and I’m a second year PhD in Ronit Freeman’s lab in the Applied Physical Science department at UNC-CH. I’m currently studying peptide self-assembly and biomimetic structures. During my time in undergrad at Skidmore College, where I received a BA in Biology and a minor in Anthropology, I became interested in biochemistry, microscopy, and imaging science. I then worked as a research technician at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, MA, where I studied protein guided mineralization of dental enamel. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, learning about sustainable agriculture, and attending concerts.