Travel and Research ‘Level Up’ Graduating Materials Student

Cailey Ruderman at Apple Park
Cailey Ruderman's co-op at Apple.

When asked why she initially wanted to major in materials science and engineering (MSE), Cailey Ruderman replied, "I didn't." The first in her immediate family to study STEM, Ruderman didn't have much exposure to the world of engineering before coming to Drexel.

"I searched for 'math plus chemistry plus physics' on Google when I was in high school. ‘Engineering’ came up as part of almost every result,'" Ruderman said. After trying classes in both chemical engineering and materials science, she chose the latter.

Hailing from Marlboro, New Jersey, Ruderman enjoyed having ready access to Philadelphia's resources, but she also spent much of her time at Drexel traveling. In addition to representing the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Material Advantage (MA), and the MSE department at conferences across the country, Ruderman inspected National Guard bases during a co-op with Elsly Technology Corporation, spent six months in California for a manufacturing co-op with Apple, and completed an Intensive Course Abroad (ICA) in Rome, Italy.

Cailey Ruderman in San Francisco
Cailey Ruderman in San Francisco.

Last year, an accidental double booking resulted in a shorter-than-expected gap between Ruderman's flight from Rome at the conclusion of her ICA and her flight to California for her co-op at Apple. "I had about two hours at Newark Airport [after getting back from Rome]," Ruderman explained. "I exchanged luggage with my parents, then got on another plane and flew to California, all in one day. It was probably the most insane 24 hours of my life."

This incident stood out to Ruderman as a prime example of the ways she kept herself busy at Drexel, but she hadn't stepped into a research role until she embarked on her senior design project with the Materials Computationand Informatics Group (MCIG) under Yong-Jie Hu, PhD, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

Cailey Ruderman in Rome
Cailey Ruderman in Rome.

Described by Ruderman as "a total departure from what [she]'d learned previously," her group focused on high-entropy alloys, which need to be modeled and studied computationally due to their complexity. The project utilized machine learning, which Ruderman hadn't previously been exposed to, yet she found excitement in the prospects offered by the research. "The experience required a higher level of thinking than I'd done in the past, but I think it's allowed me to be ahead of the curve when it comes to what the industry is looking forward at," Ruderman explained.

It's this 'leveling up' of skills and experiences that Ruderman believes gives Drexel its value. "Drexel really transforms you," she said. "Every co-op I had, and every year of coursework, allowed me to evolve and brought me to places that wouldn't have been possible without that structure. Leveling up in that way is what I think makes Drexel unique, and it's something you have to take advantage of."