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Pulling it all together

A capstone project is a year-long experience that is the culmination of a Blugold's materials science and biomedical engineering education at UW-Eau Claire. Each student must develop a materials-related project to address a question or problem that draws from across their experiences and skills as a student. These open-ended projects are exciting because the student has a chance to apply their education to solve a practical problem.

There isn't always a right answer, but the process of investigating the question leads to new knowledge and new skills for the students involved. These projects have real-world applications and are frequently developed with input from an industry contact or a research mentor. Projects can be science- or engineering-focused and always tie back to the materials.

Being able to work closely with faculty and instruments gave me a unique experience that set me apart from the rest of the crowd.

Mathew Guenther Materials Science

Industrial Capstone Projects

Interested in learning more about capstone projects or materials-related internships? Contact Dr. Matt Jewell at

Kellan Michaelson - Andersen Corporation

Kellan Michaelson poses with a demonstration window at Andersen Corporation

To manufacture windows, multiple components are assembled for sealing, aesthetics, and functionality. Sealing windows from air and water infiltration is critically important, and a weatherstrip is often used to seal a window. However, common weatherstrip materials often shrink because of age or use.

While working at Andersen Corporation as an Engineer Technician III, Kellan started a project to design better weatherstrip materials with minimum shrinkage. Designing new weatherstrip materials requires a deep understanding of the structure-property relationships of various materials, which is the reason why Kellan decided to pursue a second degree in Materials Science and Engineering.

Using his knowledge in Materials Science and Engineering, Kellan was able to find a new material that shows five times improvement for rigid shrinkage in cold air chamber testing. While additional testing is needed, this material could lead to high-quality windows with improved cold-weather performance. Given the promising results, Kellan is ready to produce a business case, which will be presented to the Andersen Corporation Business Team.

“My second bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering has given me diverse and extensive knowledge involving multiple engineering issues, which leads to new opportunities,” Kellan says.

Greylan Larson - Earth Origin Construction

Grey Larson prepares to test the strength of new building materials using the Instron mechanical tester in the Materials Science & Engineering Center

Skyrocketing home values are currently pricing out many younger and first-time would-be buyers, causing them to stay longer in an already inflated rental market. Others are choosing to look further afield to surrounding communities with longer commutes. Those commutes require more gas station fill-ups, which hinder the Eau Claire community’s goal of establishing itself as a model sustainable Midwestern city.

Today, local start-up Earth Origin Construction is hoping to chip away at both of those problems with an innovative new building technique called SuperAdobe. SuperAdobe draws its inspiration from ancient adobe and rammed earth buildings. Using this technique, anyone can quickly build a home with just hand tools, inexpensive polyurethane bags, clay, and earth sourced on-site. By eliminating the use of heavy machinery, concrete, and lumber from the construction process, these homes drastically lower both the cost and carbon footprint of a home.

To create a strong and durable building material from these simple ingredients, earth and clay are mixed with water and used to fill the polyurethane bags. These are tamped down and left to set, becoming hard like a brick over time, but without the necessity of a high-temperature furnace or oven. In order to optimize the strength of these earthbags, Materials Science senior Greylan Larson used instruments in the Materials Science and Engineering Center at UW-Eau Claire to find the best composition of earth and clay from local sources to create the strongest mixture to use as building materials.

By optimizing an age-old technique for modern times, Grey and Earth Origin have set their sights on both the environmental and affordable housing crises right here in the Chippewa Valley. Earth Origin is currently working through zoning variance processes to allow the construction of these low-cost, low-carbon alternatives to traditional homes.

Research Capstone Projects

Interested in learning more about capstone projects or materials-related internships? Contact Dr. Matt Jewell at

Ziyan Yang - Battery Research

Ziyan Yang poses with a demonstration of her computational research into better battery materials.

The idea of driving an electric vehicle has becoming increasingly attractive. While electric vehicles offer many features that are appealing to consumers, there is a critical disadvantage. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the median range for electric vehicles was 234 miles for the 2021 model year, compared to 403 miles for gasoline vehicles.

The driving range of electric vehicles is limited by the amount of energy stored in their batteries. Materials scientists and engineers from around the world are searching for new materials with higher energy densities, which means that more energy can be stored in the same amount of material. Unfortunately, little progress has been made.

Ziyan Yang, an international student from China through the Chinese dual-degree (CHEPD) program, is tackling this important challenge using computational techniques. As part of her senior capstone project, she has found a winning material: CFH2-SSSS-CFH2, an organic material with a chain-like structure has an energy density 8.5 times greater than the standard cathode material in commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Ziyan is using computational materials science to quickly screen new battery materials and following strategies to allow for the rational design of these materials. This is a faster way of designing materials than going into the lab and making and testing each one.

Inspired by her interest in energy storage, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in electrochemical technologies at the University of Oregon. She believes that her research experience in energy storage materials has prepared her well for her graduate study. 

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