New Lab for Aerospace, Biomed, Science
Fairfield University’s School of Engineering has opened a Materials Characterization Laboratory that is helping prepare students to work in the aerospace, biomedical, and materials industries, among many other science and engineering fields. The new lab is benefitting not only the School of Engineering, but also the School of Nursing, and the College of Arts & Sciences.
The Alden Family Trust and Brinkman Family Foundation jointly awarded the School of Engineering $145,000 in grants that have contributed to constructing and equipping the new lab. Additional funds were donated by School of Engineering Advisory Board member Robert Sobolewski to help leverage the foundation funds. The lab is located in Fairfield University’s Bannow Science Center, adjacent to an existing Mechanical Engineering lab.
Bruce Berdanier, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering, said the lab and its equipment, including a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), will help faculty develop curriculum and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate level coursework. “This endeavor will be a wonderful enhancement to our existing laboratories in support of our engineering programs as well as research opportunities for engineering, chemistry, physics, biology and nursing faculty,” said Dr. Berdanier.
The ultimate purpose of the lab is to provide students with state of the art equipment to visualize, identify and measure the surface characteristics of natural and manufactured material used in the design and fabrication of products ranging from biomedical sensor devices to biological cells to chip scale photonic circuits to military and aerospace equipment. The proposed equipment for the laboratory has been selected to offer micro-structure characterization, optical 3D microscopy, and material preparation to complete detailed and sensitive analyses.
Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., chair of mechanical engineering who was responsible for the initial set-up, equipment procurement and operation, said, “The real world knowledge that students gain in this innovative space will greatly assist them as they enter the research and/or industry workforce.”
Dr. Berdanier noted, “The new lab is serving as a research laboratory with advanced analytical instrumentation to enable students across disciplines to understand the properties of both commonly used and innovative materials, including diverse metals, plastics, composites, innovative nano-materials and living cells.”
The Scanning Electron Microscope is the “anchor” piece of equipment for the lab. It offers versatility and wide application for the life sciences, physics, and for material sciences applications. Technical training on the operation of this equipment was held for faculty in physics, biology, chemistry and engineerig during November 2014, with additional training planned for spring 2015, said Etemad.
This Microscope that the Brinkman Family Foundation funded will enable a wide range of Fairfield University students to apply their knowledge while gaining skills to be successful in the workforce. "It is crucial to respond to industry demands," said Ellie Hawthorne, of the Brinkman Family Foundation. "Students can practice being innovators with this equipment, and it will give them real-world experience. An understanding of how to use this Microscope is essential for the next generation of engineers and scientists.”
“We are procuring additional equipment in the near future such as a low magnification microscope, a polisher, a cutting saw, ultrasonic cleaners, and furnaces,” noted Dr. Etemad. In conjunction, Sriharsha Sundarram, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has joined the faculty in support of material science teaching and research. “This is in-line with our strategic plan of developing an experimental solid mechanics domain within the mechanical engineering field,” said Etemad.
The laboratory will present teaching opportunities in engineering, physical sciences and nursing as well as courses and demonstrations relevant to local industry needs, providing them with short training as well as material analysis services. Additionally, the laboratory will help students apply their learning, conduct significant research on real-life matters, and prepare them to use its equipment and address issues relevant to today’s workplace. Faculty have integrated this laboratory into ‘ME206L-Mechanics Lab’, ‘MF207-Material Science,’ and “ME330-Composite Materials” courses. After completion of these laboratory courses, students will have a better understanding of numerous techniques that will enable them to determine the ideal characterization tool for a given application. Students will be able to identify crucial material properties to make informed decisions concerning material selection in design problems. In addition, students will enhance their abilities in data collection, analysis, and experimental data validation”, said Dr. Sundarram.
“The laboratory will leverage the knowledge and training offered at Fairfield University to attract students enrolling in engineering and the sciences, refine and enhance coursework to make it more relevant and practical to modern engineering and science, strengthen research on current societal needs, and hone the skills of individuals trained to address those needs,” said Dr. Berdanier.
Image: Ellie Hawthorne, of the Brinkman Family Foundation, joined School of Engineering faculty, including Dr. Etemad, on a tour of the school's laboratories, which have been enhanced by equipment that her foundation has funded. The Machine Laboratory contains a new milling machine and numerical control lathe procured by a grant from the Brinkman Family Foundation.