Time management is a top priority for Molly Hein (Materials Science and Engineering, ’20). The Army ROTC cadet and junior, enrolled in materials science and engineering, is also a member of the swimming & diving team. Most days begin at 5:30 a.m. for swimming or ROTC physical training. The rest of the day is mainly devoted to school work.
“I’ve been balancing swimming and school my whole life,” Hein said. “I was never worried if I was going to be able to do it.”
Molly Hein, center, gathers with her classmates to watch teaching assistant, Tooba Shoaib, demonstrate how to use a Differential Scanning Calorimetry in MSE 308 lab. Students were studying the range of temperatures by heating and cooling polymer samples, melting a solid to liquid, and vice versa.
The Wisconsin-born Hein began swimming competitively around the age of five along with older sister, Stephanie Hein (BS ’16, Molecular and Cellular Biology), who is also the first CEO of the nonprofit organization, MakerGirl.
While attending Illinois and competing on the swim team, the older Hein was instrumental in putting Illinois on her younger sister’s radar, especially when a UI military science professor introduced ROTC as an option to athletes during a talk with them.
“She knew that I had wanted to look into the military; so when she told me, I knew I had to come to U of I, “ Hein said, upon finding out she could pursue both interests. Her growing awareness of engineering college rankings helped solidify her choice to attend Illinois.
Molly Hein, foreground in front row, an Army ROTC cadet, who just finished her junior year in MatSE, has ties to Illinois that include her sister and Illinois alumna, Stephanie Hein (BS ’16, Molecular and Cellular Biology), and a distant relative on her father’s side, Jonathan Baldwin Turner, who helped establish the University of Illinois. Hein is carving out her own path at Illinois as she prepares for a busy summer, including a trip to Mongolia as part of the ROTC’s Cultural Understanding and Language Program (CULP), followed by 37 days of military training at Advanced Camp in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“ I always knew that Illinois had a strong reputation for engineering,” Hein said. “I would go online and look up rankings of different programs to try to help me decide what I wanted to do. I noticed all them were in the top 10 at Illinois.”
Though Hein did not get accepted to her first major of choice – bioengineering, she has no regrets about where she landed.
When she took a class her sophomore year, taught by Cecilia Leal, assistant professor of materials science and engineering (MatSE) and a 2018 Grainger College of Engineering Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research, she knew she was in the right place.
“I am very interested in designing prosthetics and hopefully, one day, can tie that into working with veterans. I think having this experience with MatSE, with biomaterials, is a unique way to tie both things I’m passionate about together.”
Molly Hein, Materials Science and Engineering, ’20
Hein was impressed with Leal’s teaching style and looked forward to taking more classes taught by her. She got her wish and took Leal’s biomolecular materials science lecture this spring semester. She also worked with polymer samples in Materials Laboratory II Polymer Crystallization lab, taught by Jennifer TerBush, a lecturer with MatSE.
Hein’s MatSE classes help shape one of her goals for post-college life with an eye on military service.
“I am very interested in designing prosthetics and hopefully, one day, can tie that into working with veterans,” Hein said. “I think having this experience with MatSE, with biomaterials, is a unique way to tie both things I’m passionate about together.”
For now, Hein is considering what Army branch she hopes to be appointed before next year’s commissioning. Combat engineering and aviation top the list. Whether she serves 20 years or more in the military or pursues a career in prosthetics, Hein is committed to using all of her skills from Illinois.