Sarah Friedrich, left, and Zachary Melrose

Students sweep SAMPE

Mechanical engineering undergrads take first, second in international competition


1:08 p.m., June 20, 2011--Two undergraduate students in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware won high honors at the 2011 Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE) Student Symposium International Competition held as part of the 56th International SAMPE Symposium and Exhibition in Long Beach, Calif., May 23-26. 

Zachary Melrose won a first place award for his work on “Damage Sensing in Adhesively-Bonded Composite/ Steel Joints Using Carbon Nanotubes.” His research evaluates the ability of carbon nanotube networks to sense and distinguish different types of damage in adhesively-bonded hybrid composite-to-metal joints. Melrose demonstrated that different failure mechanisms possess a distinct resistance response, proving the ability to not only sense failure in situ, but also to distinguish the extent and nature of the damage that occurs.

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Sarah Friedrich earned second place for her work on the “Influence of Calendering on Carbon Nanotube/ Polymer Composites for In Situ Damage Sensing,” which investigated the use of a percolating network of carbon nanotubes dispersed in a fiber-reinforced polymer composite to detect the health of a mechanically-fastened composite joint. Friedrich’s results implied that resistance changes within a carbon nanotube/ fiber/ polymer composite correlates to the progressive damage.

Judges selected the UD students, both in the Honors Program, from a pool of over 250 entries, evaluating their work on technical content, originality and relevance to the industry. 

“This is the most important composites conference of the year, so for UD students to take the two top places in the student competition is quite extraordinary. Sarah and Zach’s success is a testament to their highly developed research skills and to the strong mentorship of their adviser, Erik Thostenson,” remarked Anette Karlsson, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“It was a great experience to present our work outside of our own school, to attend an international conference and to meet a wide variety of academic and professional people,” said Friedrich who, along with Melrose, began working with Thostenson in 2009 as Science and Engineering Scholars in the Undergraduate Research Program.

Thostenson, assistant professor in mechanical engineering, understands the intricate knowledge and proficiency required to succeed at SAMPE, having earned a first place award at the Ph.D.-level in 2002. “Both Sarah and Zach have made outstanding progress in their undergraduate research, with both of them submitting papers to scientific journals,” he noted. “The unique interdisciplinary environment in the Center for Composite Materials played a major role in their development as researchers.”

“Dr. Thostenson’s guidance allowed me to further my education beyond the textbook,” reflected Melrose, now a UD alumnus. Both he and Friedrich earned their undergraduate degrees May 28 during the University’s 162nd Commencement. 

Melrose currently works for the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Md., but will continue his graduate studies under Thostenson this fall toward his doctorate in mechanical engineering.

Friedrich intends to pursue her doctorate in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University before going on to a career in academia.

A total of 18 students affiliated with UD’s Center for Composite Materials (CCM) attended SAMPE 2011. This is the largest UD contingent to represent the University in the international competition.

To learn more about the SAMPE experience, click here.

Article by Karen Roberts and Annie Marshall

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