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High achievements lead to higher degree at high elevation

The next step for graduating senior Sarah Sortedahl will be to pursue a PhD in Materials Science with a ceramics focus at Colorado School of Mines. Her PhD will be fully funded, including a stipend, through the prestigious CoorsTek Fellowship in advanced ceramics. The opportunity to participate in research as an undergraduate has been the most important factor for gaining skills for Sortedahl to pursue an advanced degree in Materials Science.

Within her first month at UW-Eau Claire, she joined a research group which focuses on understanding the electro-mechanical properties of the brittle superconducting ceramic Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+x (Bi-2212). This material is of interest because of its ability to be manufactured into a round wire and produce large magnetic fields. On this project, she developed new sample preparation techniques to study the microstructure of Bi-2212. Using these techniques, she imaged Bi-2212 using a scanning electron microscope to understand how the microstructure fails in response to mechanical deformation.

Sarah has been recognized for her excellence in materials science research in multiple ways. She received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention, presented a poster on her work in September 2016 to experts in the field at the Applied Superconductivity Conference in Denver, CO, and is writing a manuscript for publication. At UW-Eau Claire there are two awards given each year to distinguished undergraduates who have conducted outstanding collaborative research. Sortedahl received both awards which were the James and Vicki Larson Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2016 and the Kell Container Research Fellowship (Honorable Mention) in 2015.

Last summer Sarah participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Oregon. She worked on a soft condensed matter physics project. This project was a new direction for Sarah, allowing her to gain new materials science skills, meet new people, and get a taste of what graduate school will be like. She believes her experiences at UW-Eau Claire and the University of Oregon have prepared her to be a successful graduate student at the Colorado School of Mines.

Interested in learning more about capstone projects or how to get involved in undergraduate research? Contact Dr. Matt Jewell at