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Blugold materials science major applies classroom knowledge to research

| Samantha West

The biggest piece of advice materials science major Gavriel DePrenger-Gottfried can give fellow Blugolds is to look as hard as you can for opportunities to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to other places.

“I think the way to get the most out of the academic experience is to look for places to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom,” DePrenger-Gottfried said.

DePrenger-Gottfried learned this for himself through his wide range of experiences at UW-Eau Claire — namely through his undergraduate research with Dr. Matt Jewell, assistant professor of materials science.

"Gavriel came to UW-Eau Claire with a lot of natural curiosity and a good set of practical skills," Jewell said. "I think the research opportunity we were able to give him helped him to use and expand his skill set, and also showed him how to think through challenging problems in new ways. I think nearly all students who do research with us find that the way scientific questions they are investigating both build their knowledge in that specific field, but also give them strong analytical and problem-solving sills that they can apply in other environments, both here on campus and after graduation." 

As a student researcher, DePrenger-Gottfried examined the mechanical properties of a bismuth-based superconductor: Bi-2212. Part of a research group, his roles included data analysis, database management, programming, heat treatment optimization, in addition to many more tasks he took on.

From there, his research opportunity led to a whole host of other opportunities, including participating in NanoDays at the Eau Claire Children’s Museum several times, running a demo at a school in Fall Creek during their science week, presenting his research at several conferences, and speaking on behalf of the university and materials science department at the start of the Northwest Wisconsin Engineering Consortium.

Without that research opportunity, DePrenger-Gottfried would have had none of those experiences.

“Making classroom concepts relevant to your daily life allows you to see their applications, the benefit being that you'll be a more diligent and engaged student,” DePrenger-Gottfried said. “I think any opportunity to test and apply concepts learned throughout life makes us more well-rounded, and more competent when it counts.”

And this, Jewell said, is his favorite part of supervising student research.

"I love it when students get excited about superconductivity (my area of research), but I like it even more when they're able to take those research skills and apply them in a setting outside the lab."