MSE Alumna Jacquelynn Garofano Explains her Multi-Faceted Spectrum of Success

By Amanda Campanaro 

Dr. Jackie Garofano using white light interferometry, a non-destructive optical technique, to study corrosion pitting phenomena of aluminum alloys, at UTRC.

As a Senior Research Scientist at UTRC and one of Connecticut’s “Forty Under 40” outstanding young professionals for 2013 (Connecticut Magazine) and 2015 (Hartford Business Journal), MSE alumna Dr. Jacquelynn (Jackie) Garofano, has earned honors and recognition as both an educator and researcher. At the recent Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Northeast regional conference at UConn, Dr. Garofano gave the morning keynote address, sharing some insight from her own achievements with more than 400 collegiate and professional young women engineers in attendance. 

The theme of the Society of Women Engineer’s Regional Conference was Spectrum of Success, focusing on the diversity in engineering from the collegiate to professional level, and the spectrum of women that are a part of SWE. During Dr. Garofano’s keynote she shared her thoughts on defining her own spectrum of success which is multi-faceted: personal, academic, professional and philanthropic. 

As a first-generation college graduate, Jackie encouraged attendees to remember that it is not “where you start, but how high you aim,” and that success is characterized by the value you put on your achievements. 

“My academic and professional career has been marked by numerous honors and achievements that have been amplified by my passion for philanthropy and community service,” Jackie says. “I shared with the audience my story as an example of a professional woman scientist who has a distinctive spectrum of success which is not solely based on technical accomplishments.” 

Indeed, Jackie’s achievements are numerous. As an undergraduate physics major at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), she had the opportunity to participate in materials research through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in conjunction with Yale University. Initially, Jackie wanted to study astrophysics and work for NASA. However, after having the opportunity to engage in research through REU, she “became fascinated with phenomena on the opposite end of the size spectrum,” she says. Her research interest shifted from cosmic-level astrophysics to micro- and nanoscale research. 

“Materials science was an attractive field of study because it’s so broad and diverse with types of materials and applications.” 

MSE turned out to be a perfect fit for Jackie’s interests and abilities. At UConn, Jackie was actively involved in the Materials Research Society and Materials Advantage organizations, and she received numerous honors, among them the Outstanding Woman Scholar Academic Achievement Award (2009), presented by UConn’s Graduate School, the MSE program’s Outstanding Graduate Student award (2010) and induction into UConn’s Alpha Sigma Mu honor society (2010). 

While pursuing her doctorate she also worked part-time as an Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Center for Research on Interface Structures and Phenomena (CRISP). At CRISP, Jackie organized professional development workshops for educators, coordinated the NSF-sponsored REU summer program, which she had participated in as an undergraduate, and assisted with the program’s website. 

In 2011, while she was pursuing her Ph.D. in MSE, her advisor Professor Mark Aindow nominated her for a Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation award, with a dual, independent nomination from her undergraduate Physics Professor Christine Broadbridge at SCSU for her work done with CRISP. She was one of 10 women to be honored with an award, and was presented the Collegian Innovation and Leadership award in recognition of exceptional academic achievement or inventiveness in technology, science, or engineering. Her Master’s thesis research focused on high-resolution electron microscopy characterization of laser-processed Ni-based superalloys, and her doctoral dissertation research involved microstructural characterization to study the phase evolution and homogeneity of magnesia/yttria nanocomposites for optical components. 

Jackie joined United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) in September 2011 as a Senior Research Scientist. 

“At UTRC, we ensure UTC’s technological advantage in the market and solve the toughest scientific challenges for our business unit customers,” she says. “During my tenure at UTRC in the Measurement Science Group, I have worked on many diverse projects and programs to develop new technologies for UTC’s aerospace and building industries.” Her most recent research has focused on combinatorial high throughput experimentation, coupled with materials informatics approaches, for advanced materials development (including additive manufacturing) and corrosion mitigation. 

In late 2015, MSE Department Head Professor Pamir Alpay reached out to Jackie to inquire if she would be interested in an adjunct professor position, teaching a section of MSE 2101: Materials Science and Engineering I (for non-MSE majors) in the Spring 2016 

“I also had the opportunity to teach a graduate course MSE 5001: Principles of Materials Engineering in Fall 2016. My appointment as an adjunct professor has not included research; however, I do find myself missing the days of conducting applied research as a graduate student – and even more so now that the university has established the UConn-FEI Center for Advanced Microscopy and Materials Analysis.” 

Although she is not conducting her own research for MSE anymore, Jackie does enjoy seeing all of the amazing research that UConn students and faculty are involved in and hearing about it first-hand from her students. 

For current students, Jackie shares a few words of advice: “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” she quotes. “Life is unpredictable and we aren’t certain about what may happen. For myself, I don’t have expectations of what could be because I’d rather not set myself up for disappointment when things that I want or expect to happen don’t. Instead, I aspire to greatness. I want to be able to look back on my life and my career and know that I’ve made a difference.”