As part of Hiram College’s Choose Ohio First Scholarship program, nine students were given the opportunity to visit the American Society for Metals (ASM) International, the world’s largest and most established materials information society. The Hiram cohort was given a personal tour of all facilities and lab spaces by Hiram alumna, Hallie Chavez ’18. Chavez graduated from Hiram with her Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry and she is now a project specialist for ASM.

Founded in 1913, ASM is a member and volunteer based organization of materials-focused engineers, scientists, technicians, educators, and students. The organization serves as a central resource that gathers the latest applied information from the field and disseminates it back to industry, academia, and government through published content, conferences, classes, and more. And while ASM is known internationally, the world headquarters is located just a 30-minute drive from Hiram, in Materials Park, Ohio.

Steve Romberger, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and coordinator of biochemistry at Hiram also leads the College’s Choose Ohio First program, and he was eager for his students to be exposed to a Hiram alumna and specialist in the field. “Hallie showed the group a number of different instruments and even gave them the opportunity for hands-on experiences interacting with metal samples and microscopes,” said Dr. Romberger. “We also talked about heat treatment and examples of failure analysis, which played a significant role in understanding the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.”

Catlyn Kauffman ’26, a neuroscience and psychology double major at Hiram felt the opportunity gave her first-hand experience in varying fields of science. “We learned about different materials and how the fracture or break can tell how that tool, piece of equipment, or structure was damaged, along with what the inside of those materials looked like,” said Kauffman. “It was fun to be able to learn new information about a field of science that I didn’t know anything about.”

The Choose Ohio First Scholarship is designed to strengthen Ohio’s competitiveness in STEM disciplines. The Ohio Department of Higher Education provides funding to select Ohio colleges and universities to support students in designated disciplines who desire a certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or graduate degree or to students who want to become STEM teachers.

Over the years, Hiram students from a number of disciplines including biomedical humanities, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, environmental students, math, nursing, and more have benefited from the scholarship program. Nine students are currently enrolled in the program and have participated in diverse learning opportunities throughout the year, including a speaker series, mentorship program, and several related field trips.

“After every experience, I always debrief with my students,” said Romberger. “We discuss what we have seen, heard, and what we can take home. Choose Ohio First focuses on experiential work-based learning with STEM, and what better way for our students to build their professional profile than to have these opportunities in research, in labs, or out in the field.”