Inside Rensselaer
* Tolga Goren
Tolga Goren: Student Researcher Dedicated to Academic and  Scientific Excellence
For Tolga Goren, undergraduate research has become a way of life at Rensselaer. As a freshman, Goren was taking a full credit load while juggling extracurricular activities and a work study job. Nevertheless, he sought out an opportunity to participate in an undergraduate research project, eventually landing a position in the lab of Materials Science and Engineering Professor Linda Schadler.

“I wanted to do research, and I could either pay extra tuition, or get paid to do it,” Goren says. “It was an easy choice.”

Four years later, Goren is still working as a researcher in the materials science lab. Research is something he plans to pursue as a career, and is one of several elements that made Goren’s undergraduate experience so unique.

“Doing applied research keeps you honest. It’s too easy to wander off in the world of theory.
It’s something you appreciate more and more as you do it.”

A native of north New Jersey, Goren will graduate this month with a double major in materials science and engineering and applied mathematics. In addition to winning the Rensselaer Founders Award of Excellence and being an ever-present fixture on the Dean’s List, Goren found the time to study abroad for a year and also secure a coveted summer internship at General Electric Corp.’s Global Research Center, where he designed and built a high-temperature vapor deposition furnace and explored novel scintillating materials for digital mammography systems.

Goren spent the 2006-07 school year at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, where he took materials science classes and conducted independent research, culminating in a bachelor’s thesis. His time in Zurich also afforded Goren a chance to deepen his knowledge of the German language.

In his research, Goren said he often looks to nature as inspiration. For a senior project, he and other students designed a new wing system for a single-person, jetpack-like flying apparatus, and looked to bird wings for design cues. In another research project, Goren studied the highly evolved composite nacre — better known as mother-of-pearl — to look for clues for new ways of nanoengineering other materials to be stronger and tougher.

Goren has already started accumulating credits toward a master’s degree in materials science and engineering at Rensselaer, and he anticipates earning the degree in 2009. For the degree, Goren is leading a team of student researchers who are investigating new aerospace applications of arrayed multi-walled carbon nanotube composites.

Beyond graduation and earning an advanced degree, Goren has a clear vision of using his experiences and expertise in an applied research capacity. “Doing applied research keeps you honest. It’s too easy to wander off in the world of theory. It’s something you appreciate more and more as you do it,” he says.

“I try to make science and engineering work together by using engineering to do science, and then using science to do engineering,” Goren says. “My goal has always been to apply math to materials science. I’m trying to bring them together as best as possible.”

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 9, May 16, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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