Community Spotlight: Melissa Ma, MechE 2T4

Melissa Ma at the SMASIS 2022 Conference.

Melissa Ma (MechE 2T4) makes a point of seeking out as many hands-on learning experiences as possible as she completes her Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Toronto. Now in her third year, Melissa has discovered she is primarily interested in mechatronics and sustainable energy, is the Leader of the Braking System Team for the U of T Hyperloop Team and recently presented at her first academic conference.

“The best part of being an engineering student are all the opportunities to get involved with learning outside of the lecture hall,” says Ma. “I love being a part of a design team and my desire to expand my knowledge outside of the classroom is what led me to seek out a research position as an undergraduate student.”

After completing her first year, Melissa was able to find a summer research position in the Decisionics Lab led by Professor Fae Azhari (MIE). As a Summer Research Intern, she supported the work of PhD students who are investigating the use of sensors in prosthetic joints to help inform healthcare decisions.

“I’m very interested in smart materials and the Decisionics Lab is doing fascinating work in the area of composite sensors,” says Ma. “I worked closely with Professor Azhari and Amin Jamshidi (MIE PhD Candidate) on this research project and even presented our preliminary findings at the UnERD (Undergraduate Engineering Research Day) in 2021. It was a great experience and I won the Top Researcher Award, and Best Podium Presentation in the Materials category, and Best Podium overall.”

Melissa continued working with the Decisionics Lab into her second year and saw the project evolve into a research paper that was accepted for publication in Materials Letters and for presentation at the recent SMASIS (Smart Materials, Adaptive Structures, and Intelligent Systems) conference.

“The lab team asked me if I would be interested in attending the conference to present our research and even though I felt a little unsure I was experienced enough to take this on, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity,” says Ma.

Melissa and the other event volunteers and PhD student presenters.

The conference took place over three days and featured talks from top researchers, networking events and the opportunity to explore the latest innovations in the field of smart materials. Melissa was also involved as volunteer and helped to organize student events at the conference.

“My first conference experience was great! It was really inspiring to see experts from the field come together in one place and share their research,” says Ma. “I was a little nervous when it was my turn to present but I was able to share our research and represent our lab well. It was really cool to present to an audience of people who were interested in the same research areas as me and I loved hearing all the discussions and being able to network with researchers from around North America.”

“I really encourage other undergraduate students who are participating in research to look for these opportunities. If you get a chance to attend a conference or be involved with a publication, go for it! You will gain so much from the experience. I’ve developed my presentation skills, networked with professionals from industry and connected with a community of researchers in my field.”

-Published October 17, 2022 by Lynsey Mellon

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