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.

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.