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Engineering undergrads are tops again in art of microscopy

Daniel Grande, Nicholas Greybush, Bryan Hernandez and Kylie Ford shared first place for a poster examining a prosthetic knee produced by Smith and Nephew, the London-based global medical devices company.

The department of materials science and engineering renewed its claim as one of the nation’s best when its undergraduate students for the second year in a row swept the awards at the International Metallographic Contest.

Two Lehigh teams tied for first place in the category for undergraduate student metals and metal alloys, and another team came in third. No second prize was awarded this year. The contest, sponsored by the International Metallographic Society (IMS), was held recently in Portland, Ore.

The students, all seniors, developed their winning projects in Mat 206: Processing and Properties of Metals. Students in the class use metallography to reverse-engineer an object by analyzing its component materials and how it was fabricated.

Metallography is the science and art of using optical and electron microscopy to study the physical structure and components of materials, including ceramics and polymers. It lets scientists analyze materials, determine their processing history and properties, and find new applications for them.

Wojciech Misiolek, the Loewy Chair in Materials Forming and Processing, and Samuel Lawrence, research scientist and director of Lehigh’s metallography laboratory, teach the class together. They use the reverse-engineering project to show students the practical applications of metallography.

A consistent push for perfection, and integrity

The IMS contest adds an element of competition and recognition. Misiolek and Lawrence select the best posters from the class to represent Lehigh at the event, where they compete with established metallographers from all over the world.

“The award from this contest is a stamp of approval that these students are pros, and it opens a lot of doors for them,” says Misiolek. “If these students taste a little bit of victory now, it makes them feel like they belong and pushes them in their careers.”

Lehigh has a history of success at the IMS contest. Last year, the university’s teams took first and second place for undergraduate student entries in metals and metal alloys, and Anthony Ventura ’11 won first place for artistic color microscopy. Graduate student Brian Gerard won the 2009 Jacquet-Lucas Award, the contest’s top prize.

Lawrence learned about metallography from Arlan Benscoter, the previous director of the metallography lab, and won the Jacquet-Lucas Award himself in 1996, when he worked for Bethlehem Steel. He served as a judge at the contest from 1997 until he joined Lehigh’s staff in 2008. This year, he won second place in the artistic color microscopy category.

“Benscoter’s ideas of perfection and his work ethic set the standard for me,” says Lawrence. “It’s all about doing the best you can, pushing the students, and integrity.”

The students’ posters were graded for clarity, conciseness, accuracy in failure analysis, effectiveness of the preparation technique used, and relevance of the project.

Daniel Grande, Nicholas Greybush, Bryan Hernandez and Kylie Ford shared first place for their poster, which was titled “Metallographic Examination of an Endoprosthetic Knee.”

The team of Paul Sihelnik, Anthony Spizzirri, Marianne Sullivan and Ukrit Thamma tied for first with their poster, “Metallographic Analysis of a Trumpet Valve.”

Austin Baker, Tiffany Chen, Christopher Chew and Jacob Bumgardner’s investigation of an audio connector placed third.

Story by Emily Groff

Posted on Thursday, October 28, 2010

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