"It's an exciting time to be involved in research associated with manufacturing and materials characterization."
Constance Ziemian says she values both the successes and failures experienced in the pursuit of new knowledge. "Research is an ongoing education that continually changes as you ask questions and adjust your plan," says the professor of mechanical engineering, who focuses on manufacturing processes and their effects on the mechanical behavior and failure mechanisms of materials.
"It's an exciting time to be involved in research associated with manufacturing and materials characterization," she says. Manufacturing is a highly multidisciplinary field, affected by new developments in materials and fabrication techniques and, as a result, she says, related research has a broader and more meaningful impact when it involves collaboration across engineering disciplines, and includes materials scientists, physicists or chemists.
A perfect example of the importance of collaboration is Ziemian's recent effort looking at the behavior of coated materials subjected to repetitive or cyclical loadings such as those experienced by aerospace and automotive components. With colleagues at Bucknell and Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory, she is investigating a developing particle consolidation process capable of applying hard material coatings to metals to improve their performance.
"This process differs from conventional thermal spray methods and achieves enhanced coatings in part due to lower spray temperatures," she explains. The goal of the project is to develop an environmentally benign metallic coating that resists corrosion and improves the fatigue performance of the aluminum alloys used in aerospace and automotive applications. The most prevalent coating formerly used, hexavalent chromate, is recognized as a highly toxic pollutant.
Ziemian extrapolates her passion for intellectual pursuit and discovery to her teaching and educational outreach activities. Her research grants all carry an education plan as well as an outreach component to attract teenage girls to fields in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). "The goal of similar efforts nationwide is to increase the percentage of women employed in STEM fields," says Ziemian, "which goes hand-in-hand with the National Science Foundation's efforts to improve STEM education for under-represented groups and develop new policies to help eliminate some of the barriers to women's advancement and retention in STEM careers."
"Academia is a profession that includes a great deal of responsibility as we try to make meaningful contributions to our fields, our students, and the community," she says. She quotes Francis Bacon when asked about the philosophy that underscores her efforts: "It is not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity."
Posted October 2012
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