Forging TomorrowPosted on: February 29, 2012 in Research & Discovery
Erica Corral, Ph.D., professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Arizona, uses a special furnace – a plasma sintering furnace – to study how nanoengineered materials perform at ultra-high temperatures. Why? Because at 20 times the speed of sound, tomorrow’s hypersonic vehicles will need to withstand temperatures upwards of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit as they scream through the atmosphere.
For Corral, the work is as much about the students as it is about the science. In her lab, she combines high-tech ideas with raw student talent to forge the innovations – and the professionals – who are fueling the industries of the future.
In 2011, Corral won the Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers in recognition of her "dedication to training and mentoring young people in materials science and engineering through educational outreach efforts." Only one award is given per year, and the candidate must also be strong in research.
The award is the first for any UA materials science and engineering faculty member since it was established by ASM in 1952.
"This is what we mean when we talk about lifelong learning," says Jeff Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering. "Erica is part of a core group of faculty members that excel at teaching, and we use them in our key first- and second-year undergraduate courses.
"If we can strengthen learning of the basics, then we can move forward to more advanced material with confidence – even if that move is after graduation," Goldberg says.
The Bradley Stoughton Award is given to instructors 35 years of age or younger and is accompanied by a $3,000 stipend. Awardees are nominated by their university dean and department head, and a nomination typically includes evaluations and comments from 12 students and peer evaluations from five materials science and engineering faculty.
A Mach 20 Career
Corral has been with the UA since August 2008 and is the first UA faculty member in materials science and engineering to receive a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award. Her current research on oxidation behavior of ultra-high-temperature ceramic composites has been funded for five years by the NSF.
Corral also is one of only three early career scientists and engineers in the U.S. to receive both an NSF career award and an Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Program Award.
The Corral Laboratory, located in the Arizona Materials Laboratory, is one of the key centers for engineering high-temperature materials in Southern Arizona. Its technical capabilities include high-temperature oxidation testing, ceramic powder processing and metallographic preparation.
The lab's work will translate to not just great advancements in the technology of flight, but also the technological careers of Corral’s students.
Want to talk about how the UA is forging the future? Look no further than the ideas and the people coming out of Dr. Corral’s lab. It’s literally one of the hottest spots for innovation in the state, if not the nation.