Elsa Olivetti’s interest in materials science began when she was an engineering science major at the University of Virginia.

Initially unable to settle on any one form of engineering, she took an introduction to materials science class on a whim. She loved the way materials science let her examine everyday material, like a block of wood or piece of cloth, on a molecular level.

“Being able to think across those scales is something that I found really cool,” Olivetti says.Now, Olivetti is an associate professor in the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the principal investigator of her own lab.

Her interest has turned to the social and environmental impacts of the materials we use in our daily lives. Specifically, the Olivetti lab looks at the huge quantities of industrial waste materials generated in the manufacturing industry, in the hopes of finding useful ways to reconstitute and reuse this waste for building.