U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Erin Donohue at MA’s “Congressional Visits Day” last week. Donohue is a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara in Carlos Levis’s group studying thermal barrier coatings. Credit: ACerS.
Last week the Material Advantage Student Program delegation took their annual trip to Washington, DC, to promote materials science, research, and higher education with elected officials and their staffs. Tricia Freshour, ACerS liaison to the Material Advantage Student Program, was with them and provided this report.
Congressional Visits Day (CVD), organized each year by the Material Advantage Program, was held last week on April 10 and 11 in Washington, DC. The CVD is an annual event that brings students to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
Thirty-seven students and faculty from 13 universities attended this year’s CVD event. CVD is a unique opportunity for materials science and engineering students to advocate for long-term funding for science, engineering and technology through meetings with Congressional decision makers. Security was tight because of sequestration. The students also witnessed thousands of people rallying for immigration on the Capitol lawn, which made getting around DC very busy and hectic, but the weather was great, and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.
The CVD experience began with an opening reception on Wednesday, April 10, where the students heard three great speakers regarding topics relevant to their visits. Most of the students’ Congressional visits with legislators were scheduled by the students themselves for Thursday, April 11, throughout the day. The students visited with legislative assistants, correspondents, and aides as well as the senators and representatives themselves. One student was even able to snag a photo with a well-known senator on her way to an important vote. [See photo of Senator Dianne Feinstein and student Erin Donohue, above.]
Watch for a full recap of this year’s CVD in the June/July issue of the ACerS’ Bulletin.
The partner societies in the Material Advantage Student Program are The American Ceramic Society, the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, ASM International, and The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society.
CTT is tracking the NCAA “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament to see whether there is a correlation between strong materials science and engineering schools and basketball prowess. You’re welcome. Credit: Wikimedia, from 2007.
This post is NOT an excuse for me to see how my NCAA men’s college basketball tournament bracket is doing.
Not at all.
It is a report on the effectiveness of my methodology for picking the winners.
Every year my brother runs a bracket contest for the extended family, and competition for his “grand prizes” is fierce. I’ll always be proud of my “middle of the road” prize for landing exactly in the middle of the standings at the end (the “middle child,” so to speak). I dribbled my way to the middle by building brackets based on
- Teams that wear purple,
- Teams from schools that my children have applied to (a surprisingly large number),
- Teams that my family has supported with tuition money (also a surprisingly large number),
- Teams from states I have lived in, and
- Big 10 teams.
Obviously, I have nanoscale knowledge of the game of basketball.
I realized I need a more scientific approach, or at least a science-based approach: What would happen, for example, if I picked winning teams based on which school has the stronger materials science department? So that’s what I did. I went with the top seed when opponents without MSE programs played each other. This experiment will either be a study in correlation theory or an exercise in failure analysis.
I’m not doing too bad—13 for 18—mostly on the strength of the Midwest bracket, which has some powerhouse MSE schools in it. In the West division, the Wisconsin loss really hurt. They have a strong ceramic materials research program with faculty like Paul Evans (see also the January/February ACerS Bulletin), Xudong Wang (look for his article on piezotronics in the August ACerS Bulletin), Paul Voyles, and others.
It is early yet for the East and the South brackets. We’ll see how the weekend plays out!
Here is my “Materials Madness” bracket. How is your bracket doing?
(Peter adds: “By the way, another school with a good materials science program, Georgia Tech, reminds the world that a group of its researchers have a predictive system— the Logistic Regression/Markov Chain—that is the most accurate prognosticator over the last decade.)
Researchers at Kansas State University have demonstrated that certain bioethanol and other biofuel byproducts can be converted into a cementitious material that can work well as a replacement for part of the Portland cement used in concrete. The idea is that the waste material could potentially reduce some of the energy requirements and subsequent CO2 production of cement production.
It should be noted first that, while this is an example of “waste-not” smart thinking, the use of byproducts as supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) will always be fairly limited because the world demand for cement and concrete is extremely high (because of its relatively low cost and high utility). Nevertheless, like the use of fly ash, incorporating into the concrete mix what heretofore has been dumped in landfills is obviously a good idea—especially when it improves the concrete mix and reduces energy consumption and CO2 production.
Much of the work at KSU has been done by Feraidon Ataie, a doctoral student in civil engineering from Kabul, Afghanistan, who is being mentored by Kyle Riding, an assistant professor of civil engineering. Ataie’s research has focused on byproducts from the production of cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural residue, such as wood chips and wheat straw.
To be clear, there is a separate process that also can be used to make bioethanol that involves edible feedstock, such as grains. The byproducts from the grain process can be used as cattle feed. However, the process for agricultural residue that Ataie focused on produces a ”high-lignin” residue (HLR) that has struggled to find a subsequent use. Riding say in a KSU news release, “Your choices of how to use it are a lot lower. The most common choices would be to either burn it for electricity or dispose of the ash” in a landfill.
The first step to make the material into a usable SCM is to convert it to ash by burning. The agricultural residues ash (ARA) cannot be used directly, and much of Ataie’s and Riding’s research has involved looking at how best to convert it to make it as reactive (i.e., accelerating hydration) as possible. While other researchers already had shown that that dilute acid pretreatment could improve the reactivity of ARA in concrete materials, he went a step farther and examined the pozzolanic property of the ARA if acid pretreatment is followed by enzymatic hydrolysis.
According to an abstract of some of the duo’s work, they concluded
Based on heat of hydration, calcium hydroxide consumption, and compressive strength experiments, it was concluded that the ash produced by burning HLR is a very reactive pozzolanic material that can be used as a partial replacement of cement in concrete materials. Thus, HLR which are byproducts of biochemical conversion of [agricultural residue] can be utilized as valuable materials for SCMs production for concrete.
Indeed, Ataie and Riding found that replacing 20 percent of the cement with cellulosic SCM increased the compressive strength of the concrete by 32 percent.
“The utilization of this byproduct is important in both concrete materials and biofuel production,” Ataie says in the release. “If you use this in concrete to increase strength and quality, then you add value to this byproduct rather than just landfilling it. If you add value to this byproduct, then it is a positive factor for the industry. It can help to reduce the cost of bioethanol production.”
Ataie also was one of two Kansas State University graduate students named a winner at the 2013 Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka, Kansas, based on his poster about the SCM research.
Much ink and many pixels address the issue of attracting more students to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math-the so-called STEM careers. The focus tends to be on elementary and high school students, namely, keeping them interested in math and science and preventing discouragement, especially among girls and other underrepresented groups, such as minority students. At the college level, the focus is on attracting, retaining, and graduating students in STEM majors.
There seems to be an unspoken assumption that all is well for graduate students in STEM fields.
The National Science Foundation is testing this hypothesis with its “2013 Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge.” Are STEM graduate students adequately prepared for the challenges they will step into as they navigate their careers? What is missing? What needs to be modified or added? Now is your chance to get your ideas and thoughts out of the graduate student lounge and into the minds of people who might be able to act on them!
The NSF is serious about collecting your ideas: Contest winners will be awarded prizes of $1,000-3,000.
By the way, our own President’s Council of Student Advisors has a similar project underway focusing on how well undergraduate and graduate student feel their institutions are preparing them for careers. Their finding will be presented at MS&T 2013.
From the NSF website:
2013 Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge
Our world is changing faster than ever before—technology is developing at an unprecedented rate and the world faces extraordinary challenges with solutions based in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. What is needed to prepare STEM graduate students to meet these modern day challenges? Fundamental changes are also occurring in the career options for STEM professionals. What is necessary to navigate the career pathways of the future?
The Division of Graduate Education at the National Science Foundation challenges STEM graduate students across the nation to submit innovative ideas to prepare them for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. Entries are solicited for ideas with the potential to improve graduate education and professional development. Ideas can be directed toward, for example, students, faculty, departments, institutions, professional societies, and/or federal agencies. Make your voice heard on STEM graduate education!
Be sure to include the following elements in your submission:
1. The title of your submission (150 characters or less)
2. The issue in graduate education you wish to address
3. Your solution or idea
4. How your idea will change graduate education
Who: Currently enrolled STEM graduate students (see additional eligibility criteria)
What: A 1,000-1,500 word submission responding to this challenge
Where: Submission made to https://production.skild.com/skild2/NSF-EdChallenge/loginPage.action
When: Entries must be submitted by 11:59PM Pacific Time on April 15, 2013
Scanning electron micrograph of a partially agglomerated suspension of alumina particles, which have been directionally freeze-cast resulting in large alumina agglomerates laced with a fine freeze-cast structure. Credit: Materials Science and Engineering, University of Washington.
As far as we know, William Shakespeare was not a ceramist, but ceramists can be writers!
In fact, most are, whether it is to write lab reports, progress reports, journal articles, memos, theses, PowerPoint presentations, résumés, product descriptions, proposals, performance reviews … ad infinitim.
Students are invited to submit an original work of creative writing, 250 words or less, inspired by the micrograph pictured above to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As with any contest, there is a prize! Here’s your chance to win an ACerS polo shirt, and the winning entry will be published in the June/July issue of the ACerS Bulletin.
Entries are due by March 29, 2013, by 5 pm PST.