Materials Science and Engineering spotlight: Andrea Papaleo

Master's student is pursuing 4+1 degree in program

Andrea Papaleo will receive his master's degree in materials science and engineering in May. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.
Andrea Papaleo will receive his master's degree in materials science and engineering in May.
Andrea Papaleo will receive his master's degree in materials science and engineering in May. Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

It was an easy decision for Andrea Papaleo to stay at Binghamton University and pursue his 4+1 master’s degree in materials science and engineering.

“The ‘plus’ program was convenient for me because you get your master’s in five years,” he said. “The transition from undergraduate to graduate student is smooth. As I worked with a professor on research, I wanted it to come to an end and finish what I started.”

Directed by Louis Piper (an associate professor of physics), the materials science and engineering (MSE) program examines how materials can be used to advance energy independence, medical devices and electronic devices, such as flexible electronics. The program offers a two-year MS degree or a combined BS/MS 4+1 degree, and a doctoral degree.

“It’s interdisciplinary,” Papaleo said. “It’s not just physics. I get to consider the physical aspects, the chemistry, the engineering and see how they come together to create a final product.”

While most of the program’s master’s students come from China, India and the Middle East, the 27-year-old Papaleo is from Long Island —Medford, N.Y. He received his associate degree in computer science from Suffolk County Community College before transferring to Binghamton University in fall 2015.

Papaleo decided to major in engineering physics at Binghamton University, having discovered a love for science in high school.

“I appreciate how there are definite answers to questions most of the time,” he said.

Papaleo soon began working with his advisor, Eric Cotts, a physics professor who is also part of the MSE faculty. Papaleo’s research specialty became solders for microelectronics.

“It was nice to get hands-on experience by doing research,” he said. “You can apply what you are doing in class and it seems more tangible. It’s actually easier to learn.”

Papaleo joined the master’s program after receiving his bachelor’s degree in May 2018. The collaborative nature of the program immediately appealed to him.

“You’re not limited,” he said. “Dr. Piper does mostly physics, but he also works with chemists and engineers. That helps you understand the full impact of what you are doing.”

The MSE program has other strengths, Papaleo said, starting with faculty ranging from departments such as chemistry, physics and mechanical engineering.

“You have plenty of people to draw advice from,” he said.

The program also offers colloquiums in which researchers present their work in the materials science field and receive feedback from the students.

Another advantage of the program, Papaleo said, is that materials science and engineering is continuing to grow.

“Smart materials. Smart fabrics. Batteries,” he said. “This is a emerging field and a broad field. There’s a lot you can do in it.”

After he receives his master’s degree in May, Papaleo hopes to enter the job market. He would like to work in the microelectronics industry, perhaps at IBM or Universal Instruments.

For Papaleo, the positives of the MSE program have been complemented by the location of Binghamton University.

“This is a quiet area – not congested (as Long Island),” he said. “It lets you focus on your studies without too many distractions. It’s been fun.”

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