By Mike Lehman


Finding a Path at Georgia Tech

Originally from California, Daemon Le wanted to explore new places and was attracted to Georgia Tech’s School Material Science and Engineering (MSE) due to her interest in chemical engineering and material science. Daemon has found the MSE program an ideal learning environment to explore her interests in engineering through coursework and research.

A Passion for Sustainable Materials

When asked about her decision to attend GT, Daemon explained her lifelong interests in engineering and chemistry. While exploring majors and universities, she discovered GT’s top-ranked MSE program. Alongside engineering and chemistry, she was interested in sustainability, specifically in the creation of materials. She believes that it is imperative to improve the materials we have in the present as well as create new materials for the future. She was drawn to the major because it offered opportunities to bridge her interests in material science and sustainability. “I initially did not know much about it,” she shared, “but the more I learned, the more interested I became.”

Challenging and Rewarding Coursework

One of Daemon’s more exciting classes was Chemical Thermodynamics of Materials, which she describes as a “notoriously hard” course at Tech. Despite the challenge, the course’s focus on chemistry and math allowed her to connect her learning to sustainability in new ways. She said, “A lot of people say that we might not be able to reverse the effects of that we have put into this earth in the past century, but it is a challenge we need to take on, and that I am excited to take on.”

Bridging Sustainability and Material Science

To facilitate her interests in sustainability, Daemon is pursuing a minor in Sustainable Cities and is currently participating in a project that involves analyzing companies’ sustainability metrics and proposing improvement strategies. Her hope is to apply this same type of sustainability approach to material science, specifically manufacturing. “I was delighted to find the vast number of partnerships that GT has with companies in Atlanta,” she explained.

Her current project is connected to the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business and the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, which supports the state-wide achievement of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. In her role, she analyzes sustainability reports and writes proposals highlighting three recommendations to present to representatives of the companies.

Exploring Research Opportunities

Initially joining the MSE Research Scholars Program and working with a faculty research group, Daemon discovered multiple research opportunities at Georgia Tech. What she has discovered in the MSE program, and at Georgia Tech in general, is that there is an abundance of research opportunities. One fascinating research project involved replicating the surface features of snakeskin on polymer thin films. “I’ve always been interested in animals and how they move,” she explained, “and snakes have a unique gliding type of movement with the play between the interface between two surfaces.”

The project also involved studying dewebbing patterns on thin films, where the film breaks down into asperities that look like solid droplets, to pattern them to look like a snake scale (at least under a large microscope). Comparing it to a visual metaphor, she described it as “like pouring water on a sheet of glass, and the fluid organizes into droplets.”

Valuable Research Experience

Daemon noted her appreciation for the learning experience and the opportunity to present her work at a recent poster session on campus. She highlighted that MSE provides multiple opportunities to be involved in research as soon as you arrive on campus. For Daemon, one of the largest selling points of MSE is that anyone who wants to do research has the opportunity to do so.

Working under Dr. Naomi Deneke in the Brettman Lab, Daemon could take the lead in designing and conducting experiments. The trial and error of the experiments was enjoyable, and Daemon has found it easy to connect with researchers in multiple labs.  

A Supportive and Collaborative Community

The MSE community has very close internal mentorship and an industry mentorship program where students can connect with business leaders in Atlanta. While the specific research is not directly related to the work Daemon wants to do in the future, she appreciated learning what it is like “to work in a lab 40 hours a week.” She’s looking forward to exploring other projects that focus on organic plastic alternatives. 

Future Aspirations and Advice

Daemon hasn’t yet planned her exact career path after graduation, but she’s actively seeking internships to see where her journey takes her. She is leaning toward manufacturing and sustainability rather than working on materials in academia. She has become more interested in packaging in the industry.

For prospective students, Daemon offers this advice: “Just go for it.” She emphasizes MSE’s research opportunities and the welcoming community she has encountered: “It’s one of the best majors if you want to do research, and I’ve overly enjoyed the tight-knit community.” Bringing together her own research path and future plans, she encourages other students: “If you are curious about the unknown, it is a great major to do something new and innovative.”