Learn how the CGIF is inspiring the next generation of ceramic and glass professionals

Read each of the three stories below to learn more about how the CGIF is making an impact all over the world. Learn more about a bright CGIF scholarship recipient, a proactive PCSA member, and a passionate professor and scientist by clicking on their photos. All stories were written by CGIF Senior Intern Helen Widman.

Devon Woodfine

2022 NSBE Scholarship Recipient

Isabella Costa

Grant Recipient, Outreach in Brazil

Casey Schwarz

Member of the Board of Trustees & Outreach Grant Recipient

CGIF scholarship recipient doesn’t give up on his goals—or his family

Beaming in front of a royal blue curtain on the Zoom call, one can’t help but think of a magician when speaking with CGIF scholarship recipient Devon Woodfine. A quick glance upon his impressive email signature implies that he really is a magician, or perhaps Woodfine has simply mastered the art of being the hardest worker in the room. Let’s go with the latter.

Born and raised in South Los Angeles—or South Central—Woodfine grew up in a single-parent household with an emphasis on the importance of education.

“Ever since I was a kid, education has always been a big push in my family to obtain and I've always had an interest in STEM,” Woodfine says. “I'm big into manga and comics, so my favorite characters in those are usually the scientist or gadget guy, so I knew I was gonna get into engineering or something or like computer science.”

Woodfine is a rising junior at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he studies mechanical engineering. Last fall, Woodfine received $5,000 through the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) on behalf of the CGIF and ACerS. 

In 2019, Woodfine assumed the head of his household and now serves as the primary caregiver for his mother, who became chronically ill when Woodfine was still in high school. Woodfine says that this scholarship allowed him to pay off most of his tuition for this year.

“I'm truly grateful that the (CGIF) selected me as the winner this year,” Woodfine says.

In the future, Woodfine aspires to attend graduate school, earn his Ph.D., and create his own start up company, but he also considers delving right into the engineering industry.

“I’m thinking of doing product design for maybe a fan corporation in Silicon Valley, but I'm also open to working in the biomedical space,” Woodfine says.

Woodfine recognizes that materials science can play a crucial role in protecting the environment from harmful substances. 

“From plastics to biodegradable materials used for the consumer market, medical devices (are) made from biocompatible tissue,” Woodfine says. “And weather resistant batteries for electric vehicles are all problems materials science will solve in the upcoming years that will revolutionize how we imagine life.”

Last year, Woodfine served as a pilot manufacturing intern at Edwards Lifesciences in Irvine and this summer he works as a process informatics intern at Pfizer. He is also the Vice President of NSBE at Cal Poly Pomona. While the list of achievements goes on for Woodfine, family is still at the forefront of his life.

“You can't just give up, because there's somebody depending on you,” Woodfine says. “My mom was in that situation with me where I'm probably sure there were days that she didn't want to go forward but she had to do it because she had a son to take care of so it's like — it’s paying it forward.”

Devon Woodfine updated

Ever since I was a kid, education has always been a big push in my family to obtain, and I've always had an interest in STEM.

–Devon Woodfine

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You can help encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in ceramic and glass materials science.

CGIF funds international outreach in Brazil

Tucked between sloping hills in a rural, southeast sector of Brazil, children in the municipal Maripá de Minas dream of becoming veterinarians and farmers. Many don’t think of pursuing a higher education, likely because they don’t know what opportunities await them in Brazil or beyond. 

Isabella Loureiro Muller Costa, a third year Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering at the University of California Davis and Brazil native, plans to show these students what their future could entail with her outreach efforts.

“The students don't have the knowledge or don't open their eyes for what they can do. They feel that their life is this and nothing is going to change, they're going to still live on the farm,” Costa says. “When I got into outreach, that was my first idea: ‘Can I do something in Brazil?’” 

Costa knew little about materials science until she learned about it during her time as an undergraduate student. She holds a master’s in materials science and engineering from Pontifical University Catholic of Rio de Janeiro and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Rio de Janeiro State, but her true passion lies in materials science.

Now, her goal is to expose students in Brazil to materials science at an earlier age. Costa hopes that this will also encourage students there to want to pursue a higher educational degree like she did. 

“I know that it’s difficult in Brazil to get a higher degree,” Costa says. “But even though it’s difficult to get, it’s possible if they study and they work hard for it. So I want to show them that they could do it, that they can reach that goal, and that there are a lot of opportunities out there.”

According to the International Trade Administration, there are 47.3 million students enrolled in basic education in Brazil and only 8.4 million of them are a part of the higher education sector, which comes out to about 5.6 percent. 

After joining the President’s Council of Student Advisors (PCSA) outreach committee last year, Costa immediately began planning her first outreach project in Brazil. 

With some help from the outreach committee chair and Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University Nathan McIlwaine, she began writing her kit grant application. She received funding and mini materials science classroom kits from the Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation (CGIF), also under ACerS. 

Costa’s project idea, titled “Materials’ Magic,” involves bringing CGIF mini materials science kits to a school in Brazil to expose them to materials science and spark their interest in it. 

“She stood out so much because she had an idea, and it was a really good idea, and then she did it,” McIlwaine says. “All steps along the process, she took initiative and she made it happen.”

Costa first traveled to Escola estadual Wallter Trezza in Maripá de Minas last February to introduce the students to one of the experiments from the mini kit. 

“The first thing that I asked was, ‘You guys want to do a higher degree, you want to go to university, what do you want to do?” Costa says. “I would say 90 percent want to go to vet school, because that (is) their life. They live on farms, they deal with animals.”

After her initial visit, she planned to return in May with more mini kits in her suitcase to carry out the full Materials’ Magic project. The objective was to then demonstrate all seven of the mini kit experiments. Due to COVID-19, Costa has been unable to return, but her goals remain the same.

“I want to make sure that they can change (their lives) if they want to,” Costa says. “And I want to not only show that, but also give the resources that they need to move forward if they want.”

The teachers have moved forward by experimenting with the kits each Friday. Although the project hasn’t panned out exactly as planned, Costa remains optimistic that it will still leave a positive impact on the students.

The PCSA shares Costa’s goal to give back to students on an international level. According to McIlwaine, it’s taken international PCSA delegates like Costa to make this international distribution and outreach happen. Packing the mini kits into checked luggage allows for easy delivery to international PCSA delegates in France, Germany, and England.

At UC Davis, Costa collaborates on other projects, like an initiative called Engineering Superheros. Engineering Superheros is designed to inspire future STEM professionals by combining materials engineering with the ever-enticing lure of superheroes.

Dr. Ricardo Castro, Costa’s advisor, leads the initiative along with Costa and fellow PCSA member Spencer Dahl. Together, the team produced the first episode of Engineering Superheros—explaining the science behind Captain America’s shield—and Costa even translated the dialogue into Portuguese subtitles.

“I've been only impressed by her performance,” Castro says. “She’s very proactive. She likes to help everyone, so she builds a personality to the group; you can see that the group is a group because her personality brings everyone together.”

Costa feels as though her path would have been paved differently if she’d been exposed to materials science earlier in life. 

“I feel that if I had this opportunity, the opportunity that I gave to them when I was in their position, my life would be a little bit different …” Costa says. “So maybe this can change one person’s life.”

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I feel that if I had this opportunity, the opportunity that I gave to them when I was in their position, my life would be a little bit different. So maybe this can change one person’s life.

–Isabella Costa

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You can help introduce more students to ceramic and glass materials science.

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Physics professor uses CGIF kit to inspire students

It’s summer vacation and you’re 15 years old, excited to take a break from school and go to a sports camp with your friends. But mom has different plans and sends you to a science camp at a local college. Moping around on your phone, daydreaming about sports camp—until the sound of breaking glass catches your attention in the science lab.

This is just one reaction that Dr. Casey Schwarz witnessed during the 2019 Glass and Materials Science (GaMES) summer camp at Ursinus College in Collegetown, Pennsylvania. The breaking glass was a part of a thermal shock experiment that Schwarz uses in her outreach efforts. 

“Not everybody, not (all) high schoolers know what materials sciences is, and just giving them this idea of this is a job that people get, or this is a science people can go into, I think that's important,” Schwarz says.

Schwarz hadn’t always worked with younger students, though. 

“I didn't even see that as an option because I saw, ‘Okay, well, you can work at a university and have a research lab, or you can go into industry,’” Schwarz says.

After earning her Ph.D. in physics at UCF in 2012, Schwarz continued to conduct postdoctoral research. It was then that she began working with undergraduates and dabbling in teaching. Now, Schwarz works as a materials scientist and an assistant professor of physics at Ursinus where she teaches undergraduate students.

“These students are just figuring out what they want to do and what they’re interested in,” Schwarz says. “And then that just kind of gets extended into, well there’s also high schoolers that are interested the same way. And then how can we make this accessible to even younger students that we work with?”

Schwarz figured out how to do just that in the summer of 2019 after receiving a grant from the Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation (CGIF). This grant served as funding for 10 materials science classroom kits from CGIF and for a student assistant to help Schwarz develop a summer camp based on glass and materials science aimed at 9 to 15-year-olds. The thermal shock experiment is one of nine demonstrations included in the CGIF classroom kit. 

The GaMES camp aimed to serve underrepresented students in the local area.

“We were looking for diverse applicants, people who might not be going to any kind of summer camp, just getting kids aware of materials science at a very young age,” Schwarz says.

GaMES included student camp counselors, guest speakers, and demonstrations featuring other Ursinus professors. Quentin Altemose, a graduate assistant who helped Schwarz develop GaMES, also collaborates with her on various projects.

“The main objective of GaMES was to create an environment where students who otherwise may not have opportunity to experience the hard sciences … would be able to foster an interest in the sciences, ideally in physics, but in any of the STEM realms,” Altemose says.

Combining science with fun, GaMES held contests to see who could draw out the longest, string-like candy fiber from a beaker of melted hard candy with a wooden stick. This demonstrates what a glass fiber looks like without actually using any glass. 

The camp was a major success in the area, as Schwarz notes that many younger siblings—dubbed as “The Littles” by the team—tagged along. Overall, Schwarz found that GaMES helped the children garner more interest in general science.

“More of them saw themselves as being someone who could do science and who had learned these kinds of things,” she says. “I had a ton of parents contact me and said that they wanted to do it again.”

Due to COVID-19, GaMES has remained in 2019 as a standalone event, but Schwarz plans to revive it in the future as a yearly event once the Ursinus campus deems it safe again. 

In the meantime, Schwarz forges ahead with other means of outreach. With the help of Altemose and CGIF, Schwarz is currently working on producing a glass-only materials science kit.

While the glass-only kit is still in the works, Casey Schwarz also makes time to visit her sibling, Mx. Jenna Schwarz, in Florida where they teach fourth graders at Calusa Elementary School. Jenna Schwarz first heard about the CGIF kits from Casey Schwarz and has been able to use them in their classroom with the help of grant funding. 

“The students loved the hands-on projects,” Jenna Schwarz says. “The projects led to real world discussion and furthered their excitement of science. Students wanted to go home and research more in-depth information as a follow up project based on the project they did for the day. Students expressed their interest in science and how they can pursue science in the future.” 

Casey Schwarz finds this to be true in her own outreach efforts like GaMES, in addition to realizing the importance of having students make real-world connections to science that they can see and touch.

We always try to make that connection to real things because materials are everywhere,” Schwarz says. 

Although her outreach efforts in the science realm remain mostly in Pennsylvania and Florida for now, Schwarz still fosters lasting relationships and leaves a profound impact on the people she works with. 

“Casey is undoubtedly the best academic, professional and personal mentor I could have had,” Altemose says. “She has made a profoundly positive impact on my life and my trajectory in ways that I really couldn't even describe … Whether it's outreach to local high schools, disadvantaged groups, speaking at seminars or events, or even just helping the students, her door’s always open. She’s really quite fantastic.”

Inspiring people is something that Schwarz does time and time again with her outreach efforts. 

“You don't know how influential you can be, just like the feeling of showing somebody (anything) for the first time ... there’s all these little firsts that could spark something, some kind of imagination,” Schwarz says.

Schwarz views science the same way many young students do.

“It’s all playing. I mean, that’s all it is,” Schwarz says. “We’re not testing them or anything. So it’s just like, play around with some material you know, really have fun with it. That’s what science is about.”

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Not everybody, not all high schoolers know what materials sciences is, and just giving them this idea of this is a job that people get, or this is a science people can go into, I think that's important.

–Casey Schwarz

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The students loved the hands-on projects, (which) led to real world discussion and furthered their excitement of science. Students wanted to go home and research more in-depth information as a follow up project based on the project they did for the day. Students expressed their interest in science and how they can pursue science in the future.

–Jenna Schwarz

You can help inspire students to pursue a career in materials science by donating a Materials Science Classroom Kit.

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We're not testing them or anything. So it's just like, play around with some material you know, really have fun with it. That's what science is about.

Casey Schwarz