Advancing research, careers, and community in materials science

Gabrielle Wood, a third-year student at Howard University studying chemical engineering, is dedicated to enhancing the sustainability and life spans of natural resources and materials. In the Materials Initiative for Comprehensive Research Opportunity (MICRO) program, she has gained hands-on experience in various research aspects, including MATLAB programming, experimental design, data analysis, figure creation, and scientific writing.

Wood was among 10 undergraduates from different universities nationwide who participated in the inaugural MICRO Summit this year. Developed by the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) and launched in fall 2021, the internship program continues to expand, offering more opportunities for non-MIT undergraduate students. This expansion includes the MICRO Summit and the inclusion of Northwestern University.

“One of the program’s key benefits is the opportunity to engage in long-term research with experienced professors in materials science and engineering,” explains Wood. “My university has limited sustainable polymer research opportunities for undergraduates, so MICRO has been invaluable in providing me with experience in this field.”

Similar to Wood, Griheydi Garcia, a senior chemistry major at Manhattan College, appreciates the exposure to materials science that MICRO offers, filling the gap in her home institution’s curriculum.

“The research experience, particularly the exploration of crystallography and material defects through MICRO’s curriculum and video resources, has been enriching,” says Garcia. “Applying the knowledge gained from videos to our remote research projects adds significant value to our learning.”

Expanding Horizons in Research

From its inception, the MICRO program has been crafted as a fully remote, intensive educational and mentoring initiative tailored for students from underserved backgrounds aiming to pursue graduate studies in materials science or related fields. The interns collaborate with faculty members on research aligned with their interests.

Jessica Sandland ’99, PhD ’05, a principal lecturer in DMSE and MICRO’s co-founder, elaborates that the research projects assigned to interns are tailored for remote work, such as developing machine-learning algorithms or data analysis methods.

“The program is not just about what students gain from faculty and the program; it’s a two-way exchange where students actively contribute real value through their research efforts,” mentions Sandland, who is affiliated with the MIT Digital Learning Lab.

After establishing MICRO at MIT, Cécile Chazot PhD ’22, now an assistant professor at Northwestern University, spearheaded the expansion of the program to Northwestern. This extension aims to expose interns to a broader range of research projects, utilizing Northwestern’s robust materials science and engineering department and resources in biomaterials research from its medical school. With funding from 3M, MICRO was officially launched at Northwestern in fall 2023. Currently, the program enrolls an equal number of interns from MIT and Northwestern, including Wood and Garcia.


The MICRO program secured a Higher Education Innovation grant from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab, an MIT Open Learning entity, to organize an in-person summit. In January 2024, interns convened at MIT for a three-day event featuring presentations, workshops, campus tours — including a visit to the MIT.nano building — and community-building activities.

“Community plays a vital role in MICRO, and seeing students come together was a highlight of the summit,” notes Chazot.

The summit also encompassed panel discussions where interns gained insights and advice from graduate students and professionals. The graduate panel included Sam Figueroa (mechanical engineering), Isabella Caruso (DMSE), and Eliana Feygin (DMSE). The career panel featured professionals like Jatin Patil PhD ’23 from SiTration, Maureen Reitman ’90, ScD ’93 from Exponent, Lucas Caretta PhD ’19 from Brown University, Raquel D’Oyen ’90 from Raytheon, and Ashley Kaiser MS ’19, PhD ’21 from 6K.

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