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June 12, 2024

Student view: The thrill of undergraduate research in Spain

Spartans study at Materials Institute in Madrid

Teancum Piekkola is a junior at Michigan State University from Mountain View, Wyoming, studying materials science and engineering with a concentration in polymeric engineering and a minor in energy. This summer, along with nine other Spartans, he is a student researcher at the IMDEA Materials Institute in Madrid, Spain, as part of an annual collaboration between the institute and MSU.

Teancum Pikkola
Teancum Piekkola

Even when I was younger, I was very interested in materials science. When I first started looking into how I could follow my passion at a university, however, I discovered that most programs in materials science were for graduate students. But then I found MSU.

Not only am I studying materials science and engineering as an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering, I am currently overseas at the IMDEA Materials Institute in Spain assisting on a project that could allow for a cheaper and more effective way to repair someone’s cartilage in a knee or shoulder, for example.

I am part of the STARR Scholars program at MSU and feel fortunate that I am at an institute with great research and connections to internships and corporations around the globe.

I am also fortunate to be partaking in our collaboration with the IMDEA Materials Institute. MSU students have been coming here for more than a decade thanks to a connection made by Carl Boehlert, a professor in MSU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science. Most years, MSU sends four to five students. This year, 10 of us are working on interesting and important projects.

IMDEA MSU Students in Spain
Spartans at the IMDEA Materials Institute in Madrid, Spain. From left to right: IMDEA Materials Institute in Spain, from left to right: Zackary Zeller, Jacob Porath, Lily Reinke, Alexandria McKee, Srinidhi Swaminathan, Alex Duke, Brody Stack, Jessica Salinas, Seneca Kail and Teancum Piekkola. Photo courtesy IMDEA Materials Institute.

I am currently assisting Pedro Díaz Payno on his project called RECOIL3D, where he is attempting to repair and regrow cartilage by utilizing 3D printed scaffolds with harvested cartilage cells. While work is still ongoing, one of the goals is to help people with arthritis or other conditions avoid more intense surgeries.

I hope to one day be a doctoral student conducting my own research. It has been great to witness the care researchers put into their work. I admit that I did not think I would be doing this type of research as an undergraduate student, but I am thankful MSU was so helpful in setting up this opportunity. To be able to go through the experience with nine other Spartans made it extra special.

I would like to thank MSU for allowing me to take part in this amazing opportunity. And I encourage anybody that has an opportunity to do research in Madrid to take it and run with it.

Story courtesy of MSUToday.