WE@BYU mentorship sparks student’s love for research

Hannah Evanson didn’t realize she was considered a sophomore until she received an email inviting sophomore engineering women to apply for a WE Mentorship. She had been home from her mission a few months and decided to apply for the mentorship. The next week she was told she got the mentorship where she would be doing research in a lab with faculty mentor.

Evanson worked with David Fullwood, a mechanical engineering professor, as the digital image correlation (DIC) expert on a graduate student’s project. They worked with TRIP steel, a steel sent to them by General Motors (GM), running analysis on it to see what the transformation rate of the crystal grain, called austenite, is based on the stress that is put on the metal. TRIP steel is known to be time and cost-saving for GM, so they wanted to know if austenite transforms under stress to give the steel greater ductility.  Evanson helped take samples of the steel, polish them, and looked at them under a microscope to see how much austenite was in it before, during, and after it had been pulled. She did most of the DIC of the samples to calculate the strain of the steel, too.

Evanson walked into the mentorship not knowing anything about what was being researched, but that showed her she was capable of learning things she didn’t know about.

“I walked into Dr. Fullwood’s office before fall classes started and he said, ‘I want you to be the DIC expert,’” she said. “I didn’t even know what DIC was...but it worked out and I learned that I could do that.”

One of the things Evanson loved about the mentorship was how helpful and inviting both Dr. Fullwood and his graduate students were.

“They are all very nice and they taught me a lot of things,” she said. “They were very willing to talk to me and teach me things and help me and listen to me.”

She also said that the things she learned in the lab helped her in her everyday life.

“The empirical method stuff that I learned started to apply to everything else I did,” she said. “It helped me in my classes, it helped me really know that being detail-oriented is important, documenting things is important,  and making a plan and following a schedule is important.”

It also taught her the importance of being patient. Things will go wrong in the lab, so she had to be willing to try new things and think more openly.

“One thing that everybody in the lab will always say is, especially if something goes wrong, ‘That’s research,’” she said. “It’s true. You don’t know exactly what the right thing to do is. It’s research, that’s the point.”

The mentorship helped her see how much she loves research. She loves it so much that when she changed her major from mechanical engineering to construction and facilities management this past semester, she went to her new department asking if any professors needed a research assistant. She is now working with Clifton Farnsworth, a CFM professor, with his research on the order in which infrastructures should be rebuilt after a major disaster.

Overall, Evanson has loved her mentorship. She appreciated having “get in and do something” learning experiences through research, which she recommends to everyone.

“I told my friends, go to your major and find a way you can do research because it’s great and I love it so much,” she said. “I hope more people can do it because I loved it and I learned a lot of things.”

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