Professor, student build bridge between OSU, India
Thursday, May 8, 2008
(STILLWATER, OKLA. – May 9, 2008) – Approximately 500 students are complementing their educational experiences at Oklahoma State University by spending time outside the United States this summer. Like the group of engineering and technology students now in China for OSU’s first short-term, study abroad course there, Phillip Rogers set off on a new path.
Rogers, a mechanical engineering junior from Edmond, is conducting research at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India. His travel and three-month stay were funded by an International Research Experiences for Engineers supplement to a National Science Foundation grant held by Raman Singh, associate professor in OSU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
“Dr. Singh teaches a mechanical design course at OSU-Tulsa and the Stillwater campus, and he offered this opportunity to students in those classes because he wanted a junior to go,” Rogers said. “I was interested in international travel and thought this sounded like a really good experience so I interviewed with him.”
“Near the start of the spring semester, I began working in his lab, and he began training me for what I’d be doing in India,” Rogers said. “I’ll be working at the university, but I’ll be able
to travel some and, hopefully, get to see a lot of India.”
An OSU-Tulsa resident faculty member, Singh’s three-year study involves the use of nano-clay composites in bridges, roadways and other civil infrastructure. He applied for the IREE supplement from NSF to fund a unique study abroad experience for an OSU engineering student, and simultaneously establish ties between OSU and IITK, his alma mater.
IREE supplements target countries up-and-coming in manufacturing, engineering and technology industry like India as places for undergraduate U.S. citizens to gain global experience.
“It’s not really the case at OSU, but according to NSF statistics, only agriculture students rank behind those in engineering among college and university students with the least amount of exposure to international programs,” Singh said. “When you start working in emerging, global manufacturing and industrial sectors, there can be a culture shock so this program embeds students in an institution outside the United States.”
“In Kanpur, Phil will get a mentor – a friend and colleague of mine – and experience the finest engineering education in India, and I don’t say that just because it’s where I did my undergraduate studies,” he said. “It is one of the most selective institutions in the world, and he’ll receive exposure to India’s culture and the culture of research and education over there.”
Singh is working to enhance the mechanical properties of nano-clay composites. Similar to the light and strong carbon fiber composites now found in aircraft and spacecraft, nano-clay composites include natural clay particles in the epoxy to improve the material’s strength and durability. Rogers and IITK researchers will conduct dynamic testing of Singh’s nano-clay composites to study characteristics such as reaction to impact and crack propagation.
“People have been putting nano-clay particles in composites for a while, but there hasn’t been much dynamic testing. Helping Dr. Singh with this, I hopefully will have written part of a research paper on it by the end of the summer,” Rogers said.
“Materials processing is really interesting, and a lot of research is being done on it worldwide, including at many aircraft companies,” Rogers said. “It’s something I’m definitely interested in working on in my career and, hopefully, in the future, I can get a job with one of them.”
Singh brought the project to OSU two years ago from his previous post at Stony Brook University in Long Island, N.Y. Since he shares the NSF grant with a collaborator there, a Stony Brook student will join Rogers in India.
“We’re trying to improve the resistance of nano-clay composites to environmental exposure and want to know how a bridge built of composite material today will perform 50 years from now,” Singh said. “Phil has learned how to make these composites, and at Kanpur they have facilities and test equipment we don’t have.”
“Phil gives us an ambassador who will stay there for three months and help OSU start to build bridges with them,” Singh said. “It will be unique for them to have American undergraduates there, and Phil is such an outstanding student and guy, he’s going to do a great job representing OSU and the state of Oklahoma.”
Singh initially accompanied Rogers to India, but will leave him in Kanpur and travel to Nepal and Bhutan to begin establishing relationships between OSU and institutions there. Later in the summer, Rogers also will travel to the nearby nations.
“Bhutan is a tiny country with a large indigenous population that used to have an Oxford-educated king, but has decided the time has come to move to democracy,” Singh said. “It is an environmentally conscious country – they banned the use of plastic bags 15 years ago – virtually untouched by Western influence, but it is progressing rapidly technologically.
“They’re interested in how to integrate high-tech industry into a country with limited resources while ensuring happiness among the general population,” Singh said. “We’ll give presentations in Bhutan and Nepal about OSU and Oklahoma as the first steps to building not only research, but also cultural exchange and understanding.”
Singh said Rogers travels won’t end with his return to the United States at the end of the summer. He expects his mentee to continue his OSU ambassadorship with a trip to NSF’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“I’m very grateful to NSF for recognizing the need for exchanges like this and providing the financial support to make it possible,” Singh said. “We hope to set up presentations and talks so that Phil can help expose other students to opportunities like this.
“I’ve already spoken with my NSF program manager, and he wants Phil to come up there, probably in October, to give a talk about his experience in India,” he said.
Rogers, a 2005 graduate of Edmond Memorial High School, is the son of Pat and Pam Rogers of Edmond.