Polymers and People — Summer German Internship

MSE Junior Katie Daehn talks about her summer research internship in Germany.

Katie in Munich.

Katie in Munich

Having lived in Columbus my whole life, living in Germany for 12 weeks with a DAAD RISE scholarship was a hugechance for growth, both technically and personally. I left everything that was comfortable and familiar and headed on my own to Jena, Germany – a small town nestled between hilltops in the Eastern part of Germany. I spoke a little German from high school courses and had travelled in Germany with my dad and brother before, but living and working there introduced new cultural nuances that I never would have expected.

Keys are inserted into doors upside-down, checking out at the grocery store is a very rushed event, and “German bureaucracy” really exists. These nuances on top of meeting all new people, being immersed in a foreign language that I spoke worse than 2-year-olds, learning the ropes in a new lab, and taking a graduate-level polymer physics class in German, where I was regularly called on to answer questions, meant I had quite an adjustment time.

However, it was these hard times that made my time in Germany exponentially more meaningful. I embraced the experience, learned a ton, and felt alive. I met so many interesting people from around the world, saw a very influential history in a real way, and experienced some incredible moments traveling around Europe.

My internship involved researching and simulating the behavior of carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP’s). Composites were an area of materials I knew little about going in, but they are light-weight with strengths comparable to metals, so conducting research in this growing and important area was definitely valuable to my career as a Materials Scientist.

Sample preparation

Sample preparation

I helped prepare CFRP plates, performed tensile tests, wrote a Matlab program to analyze the data, collected results on the elastic modulus, and used ANSYS to model our testing parameters. I gained experience in mechanical testing as well as in computer simulation and analysis.

My internship was very rewarding because I developed new skills, got experience with new equipment, worked with an international group of people, and saw first-hand how the German education system works and how research is conducted in a completely different lab.

It’s really hard for me to sum up everything my summer in Germany was to me, but it will always be precious. I really appreciate everything I learned in the lab, the work and consideration my advisor went into teaching me and always inviting me on coffee breaks, my fellow RISE students and our adventures – from sprinting to catch trains to long barbeques in the park. Though I’m more confused than ever about the world and my place within it, I’m filled with a new confidence to keep exploring. And the next time I’m overwhelmed by change and the unfamiliar, I’ll know that there are great people everywhere and I’ll find my way.

Research internship in Germany

Colin, an OSU MSE junior, spent this past summer as an intern for Bodycote Kolsterising.  Here is some information about his work, though he doesn’t say anything about the lederhosen!

Bodycote is an engineering firm that specializes in low temperature diffusion of carbon into stainless steel.  I worked at the regional plant in London, Ohio, during the summer of 2012, and was asked to return for the summer of 2013.  Thus, during the summer of 2013 I went to Germany as an intern and researcher for Bodycote Kolsterising.

Colin at the Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance.

Colin at the Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance.

My goal as researcher for Bodycote was to find a better cleaning method for Kolsterised samples.  After Bodycote’s proprietary Kolsterising process, the stainless steel is left with a dull brown coloring, instead of the shiny metallic luster normally associated with stainless steel.  Bodycote has an in-house cleaning process that was yielding unsatisfactory results. It was my task to remedy this.

I first arrived in Landsberg Am Lech, Germany, where I spent a week studying the current cleaning process at the Kolsterising plant.  I spent the remainder of the summer in Konstanz, where I performed independent research within the Department of Materials Research at HTWG Konstanz, under the guidance of Dr. Paul Gumpel.  I was responsible for the design, data collection, and analysis of my testing.  After five weeks of testing, I had created my own cleaning process that showed promising results.  During the remaining 5 weeks, I optimized and analyzed the results of my cleaning process.

Colin rocking the Bavarian party attire

Results indicated that the new process created optically cleaner parts that were more corrosion-resistant than the current cleaning process.  At the end of my stay, I presented my findings to the VP and European sales of Bodycote who are now trying to implement my cleaning process into their plants.

Rocky Mountain “Hi!”

Jake and his research poster

Jake and his research poster

At my REU in Golden, Colorado, I gained experience in research, industry, and life.   The program was funded by the National Science Foundation and focused on metallurgical aspects of MSE.  I worked alongside a professor, Emmanuel De Moor from the Colorado School of Mines and senior scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology: alumni from OSU and from Northwestern. Talk about a great group!

We evaluated 4 alloys for their compliance with a new code: Fire Resistance of structural steels. Basically, it was a lot of elevated temperature tensile testing and microscopy. I gained experience in both, but focused more on characterization. One of my pearlite images is even being entered into a competition at the Microscopy & Microanalysis conference!

At the end of the summer, we had a poster session and mine was judged in the top 5 out of 60.

Work was not the only thing that occupied my time, of course. The students I lived with at Mines Park were very adventurous. We visited Denver for Colorado Rockies games and concerts, hiked 14,000+ ft. mountains, went skydiving from 18,000+ ft., took a few local brewery tours, and played some golf.

Enjoying Colorado

What did I learn from this experience?
* I love the outdoors.
* Heights aren’t such a big deal anymore.
* Grad school is definitely the next step in my life.

Summer Planning in February

The lack of blog posts over the last few months is an indicator of 1) how busy we are and 2) how we’re still adjusting to the semester system at OSU.  While Autumn semester seemed long, it was fairly relaxed, with the usual fall traditions at college.

Spring semester, however, is a shock!  We have to get ready for summer and all the normal end-of-the-year events in just 14 weeks, rather than the 20 we used to have.

Here are a few highlights of MSE happenings:

Winter 2012 MSE Grads

Winter 2012 MSE Grads

  1. Seven MSE students graduated in Autumn Semester with their Bachelor of Science degrees in Materials Science and Engineering. Thirty-four are expected to graduate in May.
  2. This semester we welcomed 65 new students to the Materials Science and Engineering major.
  3. The Material Advantage / MSE Club has sponsored several speakers from industry, has held a few Happy Hours, and continues to raise funds for their TMS meeting in San Antonio in March. This year we have a team registered for the Materials Bowl, and 16 of our students will compete in the research poster contest at the conference!
  4. Students participated in the annual SWE Engineering Career Fair, where more than 150 employers congregated to meet potential interns, co-ops, and career employees.
  5. Those students returning to OSU next Autumn are filing the FAFSA and OSU scholarship applications by the February 15 deadline.

Jake, a junior in MSE, was excited to already hear that he has been accepted for a 2013 summer REU at the Colorado School of Mines.  REUs – Research Experience for Undergrads – are opportunities for undergraduate students to spend the summer doing research at another university on a National Science Foundation-sponsored program. It’s a great way for students to see MSE outside their own university, and for universities to recruit the best and brightest students in the country for their graduate school programs.
Good luck, Jake.  Send photos from Colorado!

And, believe it or not, they still take classes fulltime!

Summer Happenings in OSUMaterials

While our students are busy with summer jobs, internships, and classes, here are a few things going on in the department this summer.

The OSU’s Women in Engineering program holds a variety of outreach camps throughout the summer.  One group of rising high school seniors stopped by Dr. Guan’s lab in the MSE Department to learn about the use of polymer gels, stem cells, and the regeneration of heart tissue.  Here, students inject stem cells mixed in a polymer hydrogel (liquid at low temperatures, and more solid at body temperature) into a pig heart.  Read more about Dr. Jianjun Guan’s work here: Hydrogels for Cardiac Tissue Engineering.

Women in Engineering campers learn about biomaterials

In addition, the department acquired a new “toy” that will be used in classes and welding demonstrations to show a type of solid state welding called “cold pressure welding.” The hand-held device welds wire pieces together without the use of heat. Forcing two wires through a die several times, exposes pure areas of metal (copper, in this video) to come in close contact with each other, so that metallic bonding occurs.

In this video, visiting high school teachers learn about materials and solid state welding at an ASM Materials Teachers camp held in the department this summer.


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