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Undergraduate profile: Brian Gerard '07

While eating lunch at a café in a small town in Costa Rica, Brian Gerard ‘07 overheard the sound of Latin drums in the distance. Curious, he excused himself from the table and followed the drums’ beat to a small church located down the street.

On entering, he found locals dancing to the music and began speaking Spanish with them. Next thing he knew, he was playing the drums with three teenage boys who kept requesting Elvis songs.

“I was jamming with the locals. It was such a cool experience for just passing through this small town to get lunch,” said Gerard, a materials science and engineering major who has played the drums since the age of four.

The volcano Miravalles, source of Brian's mineralogical sample

Gerard spent 19 days on the Lehigh in Costa Rica program last winter break. He examined sustainable agriculture and energy, ecotourism, land-use planning and management, and the issue of biodiversity vs. resource exploitation in forests.

While hiking at the geothermal site on the base of Miravalles volcano in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Gerard found a volcanic rock that he is now examining as a mineralogical sample.

“I’m testing what it’s made of, how it formed, and I might find something else, too,” said Gerard. Later this spring, he hopes to enter his results at a competition sponsored by ASM International, the world’s premiere organization for materials scientists and engineers.

Under the supervision of Arlan Benscoter, research scientist in the materials science and engineering department, Gerard has worked since his sophomore year as a metallographic technician. He is also examining an anchor found in the Chesapeake Bay, using a non-invasive process called field metallography to identify microstructures that indicate how it was made. Armed with that information and the results of an extensive literature search, Gerard has been able to date the anchor to the 15th or 16th century.

With Benscoter’s help, Gerard landed a 12-week research internship last summer with the Metallurgy Division of Materials Science and Engineering Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland. There, Gerard studied the basic characteristics of metals that may be used in new types of exterior body panels to help make automobiles more fuel-efficient. He worked with direction from Stephen W. Banovic ‘99 a NIST materials research engineer.

Originally, Gerard considered attending music school, but realized that this wouldn’t guarantee him a career. Instead, he came to Lehigh, undeclared until his Engineering 5 class introduced him to the field of materials science.

Brian Gerard

“For me, materials science makes sense, it’s very logical. I’m someone with a horrible memory. But, with problem solving and logic, one can easily figure out the answer,” said Gerard.

Even though Gerard passed on music school, he still has had opportunities to continue to play at Lehigh. He has taken drum and piano lessons, played for Lehigh’s Jazz Ensemble, and played for a student band, Notes from the Road. The band has performed at CBGB’s and the Cutting Room in New York City and at other venues.

“Drums are my way to get away, relax,” said Gerard. His interest in the drums came from his father, who also plays.

His passion and interest in music led him to take piano lessons during his sophomore year.

Besides the lab studies, classroom activities, and drumming, Gerard is an original member of the Rossin Junior Fellows. As co-chair of recruitment, he gives tours and shares his experiences with prospective students.

“They need to hear from students, not just professors showing the labs. They need to see how much fun we have here,” said Gerard.

Gerard looks at college as more than just attending class.

“College is what you make of it. You can do anything you want, from working all day to just having fun, but an even balance is what is best in the end.”

This summer, Gerard will examine the academic side of materials science by studying titanium in Geelong, Australia, near Melbourne.

—Elizabeth Danzig ‘06

Posted on Thursday, March 30, 2006

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