Macatangay Has Earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Activities at UVA: Volunteer firefighter and EMT with Albemarle County
Q. Looking back to the time when you applied to UVA Engineering, why did you choose this school?
A. I earned my undergraduate degree from UVA in engineering science with a materials science concentration. I chose to stay for graduate school because I really appreciated how supportive and enthusiastic the faculty were in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. I remember how my professors were proactive in providing me with professional advice. I was also really interested in chemistry, and this aligned well with interesting work that is performed on corrosion science.
After your time here, how are you different now – how have you grown as a person?
My time here as both an undergraduate and graduate student have really allowed me to develop how I see the world around me, as well as how I look at problems. Materials science is such a broad field where we borrow nuggets of knowledge from different technical fields. My education has given me the tools to tackle a problem from multiple perspectives.
Outreach and teaching opportunities at the graduate level have also made me recognize the value of service and community engagement. This gave me the enthusiasm to look for other outlets outside of the academic environment to contribute to my community through firefighting and political canvasing. Service is something that I am passionate about, and I believe that this enthusiasm partly stems from the interactions that I have had with the MSE faculty.
What was your favorite or most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering, and why? Was there someone who helped you along your journey?
One of my favorite experiences at UVA engineering was being a teaching assistant for ENGR 1620, introduction to engineering. Our class worked on material selection for military vests (i.e., flak jackets). For one of the experiments that we performed, we went to Crutchfield, a stereo equipment manufacturer, to perform acoustic testing on porous aluminum! Even though I had very limited background in this area, I enjoyed being able to guide students with a diverse set of skillsets and interests while learning something about a class of materials outside my own research. I still remain in touch with many of the students who took that class.
What’s next for you?
I will be attending the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the world’s first engineering-based medical school. I initially went into graduate school with the goal of becoming a professor, but I realized halfway throughout my degree that I wanted to be involved with patient care. When I took my qualifying exam, I wrote about magnesium stents, something that sparked my interest in going into the medical field. Being able to do patient care as an EMT made it more personal. Even though I made this career shift, I am still very interested in materials science, and I hope to stay engaged with the materials community as much as possible.
What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal challenge you’d like to help solve?
There are infrastructure issues in the United States related to materials that impact population health and safety that need to be addressed, such as the presence of lead in steel pipes. Additionally, many of these issues disproportionately impact underserved communities. Reinforced with my background in materials science, I hope to use the physician platform to create constructive dialogue on these issues through discussions with colleagues and even elected representatives.
How has UVA Engineering prepared you for your future, for following your dreams or personal mission?
One of my main goals in being a physician is to provide patients with holistic care that is cognizant and respectful of one’s identity and personal values. UVA Engineering provided me with opportunities to work and interact with people from a diverse set of backgrounds through research collaborations, conferences, community outreach and teaching. I believe that these experiences will reinforce my ability to work with diverse patient populations in the future.
What advice would you give to engineering students who are just starting out?
I made significant changes to my professional goals during my undergraduate and graduate years. At times, it was scary trying to make these shifts. Going to medical school right after a graduate degree in materials science and engineering was not exactly the plan I had for myself on day one.
One of the greatest things you have control over is trust in yourself. Listen to that tiny voice in your head. Do not be afraid to change gears if it feels right.