Faust Received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Research
Mechanical Engineering student Jessica Faust, PhD’20, received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Research. Winners of this award have shown an exceptional ability to conduct high-level research and make contributions to the scholarly literature in their fields.
Soon after coming to Northeastern, Jessica was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which enables the most promising graduate students to do independent research with economic and academic freedom. Jess focused her work on fundamental breakthroughs in interphase assembly within mechanical and thermal composite materials, one of the most important and complicated topics of study in composite materials. She has also worked at the frontier of RF and telecommunications materials. Her research has resulted in a patent and more than 12 conference presentations. Jessica is also a participant in the Young Scholars Program and volunteers with the Science Without Borders program. In all, she has mentored 11 students at both the high school and undergraduate levels, helping two of the undergraduate students present their work at the 2017 National Conference on Undergraduate Research. She has participated in Sharing Science Workshops at the Museum of Science in Boston, effectively communicating high-level science to the general public.
Recent PhD Grad Continues Trek on Composite Material Frontier
Jessica Faust, a mechanical engineering student who recently defended her dissertation on the fundamental mechanisms of composite interfaces, is also the 2020 honoree for the Outstanding Graduate Student Award for Research. Winners of the award show “an exceptional ability to conduct high-level research and make contributions to [their field’s] scholarly literature.”
Faust, PhD ’20, explained that her research focuses on combining two very different materials to create a new one that exhibits properties of both.
“The biggest challenge with that, and which is where my research comes in, is getting those two materials to interact well,” Faust said.
Previously, Faust was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, allowing the most promising graduate students to conduct independent research with economic and academic freedom.
She is also a member of the Huntington 100, a Northeastern program recognizing students who have recorded achievements in research, athletics, entrepreneurship, community service, leadership, and on co-op.
Her recent thesis examined three different composite systems, two of which are focused on improving the strength of mechanical properties and the third on thermal properties.
“The ‘fun one’ is working on designing materials for bone graft applications,” she explained.
Faust started with a hydrogel, which has qualities “very similar to JELL-O,” in that it’s soft, squishy, and not particularly strong. Then, a bioceramic is added in. By improving the interaction between the two, a very strong hydrogel is created. Long-term, this can potentially be injected into a human bone to generate natural bone.
The other side of Faust’s work could be very important for the electronics industry. Her thermal composite study aims to create an electrical insulating thermally conductive composite. A key challenge in the industry is cooling down hot elements and components within a circuit board, she explained. But Faust focused on creating a new composite that has very high thermal conductivity but will not short circuit the circuit board.
Mentoring future STEM students
Faust has also dedicated her time to helping guide high school and young undergrads in their own scientific pursuits. She participated in the Young Scholars Program and mentored international students through the Science Without Borders program. In total, Faust has mentored 11 students – high school and undergrads – while at Northeastern. She helped two of her undergrad students present their work at the 2017 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
While earning her Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Faust participated in a significant number of internships that helped feed her interest in research and pursuing a graduate degree. She wanted to work with younger students pursuing STEM, to show them how their passions can be applied long-term.
“It’s incredibly important for younger students, those in high school and freshmen in college especially, to broaden their horizons and see what research is all about,” she said. “As an undergrad, it can be tricky to get into labs, but it’s something I recommend all students experience at least once.”
Faust noted that two of her students who she has mentored for the past four years were originally not interested in pursuing grad school. However, having worked on numerous projects they have both flourished into independent researchers and are leaning toward grad school after all.
Looking ahead, Faust is open to pursuing either academics or industry but knows that she wants to stay honed in on the frontier of composite materials. For the “long long term,” she hopes to have a professor position.
“I’d like to investigate my own ideas,” Faust concluded. “I’m interested in staying with the research and development side of composite materials.”