YSU Materials students work with NSF Research Center through Case connection

A growing new research effort at YSU originates in the Photonic, Optical, and Electronic Materials (POEM) group, begun by YSU physics faculty and now including engineering and chemistry faculty. In physics, for example, the POEM group has been actively recruiting students for the past three summers in cutting-edge research supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, as well as grants from the State of Ohio Third Frontier Program. Ongoing support for YSU student research into polymers as photonic and optical materials has been provided through YSU’s affiliation with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science & Technology Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CLiPS). CLiPS is a multi-institution collaborative research and education Center begun in 2007 with now ten years of pledged NSF support at nearly $40M. Four YSU faculty members have participated in CLiPS, including Drs. Andrews, Crescimanno, and Oder in Physics and Dr. Price in Chemical Engineering. In addition to material support, research collaboration opportunities, and support for off-campus research experiences for YSU students, direct support to YSU as an affiliate of CLiPS is anticipated to total over $300k. Since 2008, YSU faculty has co-authored at least seven refereed publications partially supported through CLiPS with several more in preparation and many including YSU students as co-authors.

A major component of CLiPS programs is the training of undergraduate students at Affiliates Programs, like YSU, and the recruitment of undergraduates into summer research experiences and, eventually, graduate research in polymer science & engineering. In addition to their research at YSU, POEM students have participated each summer in research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) at nearby Case Western Reserve University, the lead institution for CLiPS. The REU program introduces students to CLiPS technologies, polymer science and STEM research and serves as an important pipeline for American students into CLiPS graduate programs. This year the first four American students accepted into the CWRU PhD program in Macromolecular Science & Engineering were REU alumni, including James Aldridge, graduate of Youngstown State University, who joined the prestigious research group of Dr. Eric Baer, Director of CLiPS, in June, 2011. As part of the REU experience, students work as members of CLiPS Layered Research Teams for ten weeks under the mentorship of a graduate student. In addition to daily research activities, REU students participate in weekly program meetings during which they hone their presentation skills, attend lectures in various areas of polymer science and engineering, and discuss professional ethics. The summer program culminates in the Northeast Ohio Undergraduate Polymer Symposium, an event showcasing the summer research work of undergraduates from CWRU, the University of Akron, Kent State University, and NASA.

YSU develops Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute

Youngstown State University is developing a new institute designed to educate professionals and provide research for the emerging multi-billion dollar shale natural gas industry in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The YSU Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute will provide bachelor’s degree level courses in science and engineering that will lead to an academic minor in gas technologies and also will provide research opportunities for industry focusing on analysis of water used in the shale gas extraction process.

“Given YSU’s location in the heart of the Utica shale region, this new Institute is well-poised to meet the educational and research demands and needs central to this new and growing industry,” said Martin Abraham, dean of the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, in which the new Institute will be located.

“Establishing YSU’s presence in this fast-changing field is a critical necessity if we are to have a role in educating the future workforce to support this economic growth opportunity.”

Formation of the Institute was announced this morning at the Youngstown, Ohio Utica and Natural Gas Conference and Expo in the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngtown. The event, presented by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, is the first conference and exhibition solely focused on Ohio’s emerging shale gas industry.

The Utica shale is a large rock formation thousands of feet below the surface spanning an area from eastern Ohio to Pennsylvania and across the Canadian border. Gas contained in the Utica shale is expected to become a dominant source of natural gas in the United States in this decade. A recent study showed that more than 200,000 jobs, including nearly 9,000 in professional and technical services, will be created or supported by 2015 due to exploration, leasing, drilling and pipeline construction for the Utica shale reserve.

One of the significant issues for the extraction of the gas is the use and recovery of large volumes of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process and the need to treat, analyze and monitor this water.

The YSU Natural Gas and Water Resources Institute will provide research on water-related issues such as analysis and monitoring, remote sensing, remediation and treatment, and reuse and recycle, utilizing faculty and facilities in YSU’s chemistry, mechanical engineering, environmental science, chemical engineering, geology and civil engineering departments.

In addition, the Institute’s educational component will establish an academic minor in natural gas and water resources for students interested in careers in professional and technical fields directly related to shale gas and other unconventional resources, or the petroleum industry in general. Most of the faculty, expertise, courses and laboratory components for the new minor already exist in the STEM College, Abraham said. A few new courses will be created to provide specific technical competencies required for understanding water resource issues associated with the Utica and Marcellus formations.

The concept of the new Institute will be presented to the YSU Board of Trustees in December. Abraham said he hopes to work with an industrial advisory board to identify specific research targets for the new institute and complete the development of the minor by next fall. The first students in the new minor in natural gas and water resources could graduate as early as May 2013.

Third Frontier Paves the Way for Innovation by Students and Faculty

Ohio’s Third Frontier program provides funding for four collaborative research projects that support YSU students and faculty for research conducted in conjunction with industry partners.

Mike Hripko, Director of STEM Research and Technology-Based Economic Development, said, “The YSU STEM College is enjoying unprecedented success in receiving research funding through Ohio’s Third Frontier Program.” Martin Abraham, Dean of the STEM College, added, “While STEM has previously received Third Frontier funding, this is the first time we have four concurrent grants active at the same time.”

Dr. Darrell Wallace of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering is working with M-7 Technologies to develop manufacturing equipment which can simultaneously process precision measures and perform material surface analysis. They were awarded $1.66 million in 2010 through the Wright Center for Sensor Systems Engineering, a Third Frontier program.

Dr. Virgil Solomon of the Department of Material Science and Engineering was awarded $1 million to oversee a project with Third Millennium Metals. They are investigating properties in a new carbon infused copper metallic composite that will reduce wire size and increase conductivity.

Dr. Solomon is also working with Delphi Corporation to investigate aluminum battery cable which will be used in electric and hybrid vehicles. Aluminum is less expensive than copper and will allow for smaller cable size. They were awarded $1 million for the initiative.

Dr. Josef Simeonsson of the Department of Chemistry is collaborating with Polyflow Inc. on a $1 million research project to develop a process to turn polymer waste (i.e. plastic bottles, containers) into fuel. Along with this grant, YSU also received $600,000 for capital equipment to support the research.

Each project involves undergraduate and graduate students working in conjunction with faculty and the industry partners. This type of collaboration not only enhances the educational experience but provides opportunities for future employment with these companies.

The grants provide funding for a period of one to two years on each project. Hripko added, “These and other research awards are critical to the success of the STEM College, as they provide much needed capital equipment, funding for undergraduate and graduate student research, and relevant scientific discovery opportunities for our students.”

The Ohio Third Frontier program is a technology-based economic development initiative that supports existing industries working with new globally competitive products. Ohio voters approved the $700 million extension of the program in 2009. Its purpose is to foster and attract new companies to Ohio promoting job development and innovative processes. More information on the program can be found on its website.

Contractor for a Day Event

Each year the Youngstown Chapter of the Ohio Contractor’s Association (OCA) sponsors the “Contractor for a Day Event”. The event is open to all Civil Engineering and Civil & Construction Engineering Technology students. This year’s event was held on September 23 and started at 7:00 am with Tom Metzinger, of A.P. O’Horo, spearheading the day’s agenda.

The purpose of the event is to provide student’s first-hand experience of being on actual and various types of construction project sites. This year’s project sites included a roadway project and a bridge replacement project, both in Mahoning County, and a wastewater treatment plant in Vanport, Pa.

The students not only get to experience the feeling of being on an actual, in-progress project, they get to talk to the supervisors of the various projects, who take time to explain what the purpose of the project is, how the construction progresses, any problems or delays that may have happened on the project, and answer questions that the students may have.