Senior Madeline Scott of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and senior Elizabeth Voke of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department and Commonwealth Honors College were two of the eight “Rising Researchers” from across the UMass campus who were honored in the spring semester for excelling “in research, scholarship and creative activity.”
As Research Next says about its eight new Rising Researcher recipients, “A revolutionary spirit runs through our veins at UMass Amherst. It inspires us to think in new ways and to challenge convention. This semester we celebrate eight students with the Rising Researcher award in recognition of their unconventional and inspiring approaches….”
According Scott’s profile in Research Next, she has been working in MIE Professor Robert Hyers’ lab on two research projects that broaden understanding of new and existing materials and processes for advanced manufacturing.
The first project was to rebuild and modify an experimental apparatus for electroplating powders to be used in cold spray processes.
“Cold spray is a newer repair process for metal components that are exposed to corrosive or high-wear applications,” says Scott. “It allows an economical and ecological route of salvaging and repairing damaged parts rather than discarding them.”
Scott’s second project is a study of the density and viscosity of superheated and undercooled liquid metal samples in levitation through a contactless method. Scott had the opportunity to spend a week conducting some of these experiments at NASA’s George Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. While there, she helped prepare samples, observed and directed sample processing, and made adjustments to their electrostatic levitator.
“Maddy has made significant contributions to other projects as well, including the measurements of properties of superalloys for additive manufacturing for aerospace, and of novel high-entropy alloys that may displace some of these superalloys for cryogenic turbomachinery in rockets,” says Hyers. “Her work has resulted in significant contributions to two accepted conference papers, with three journal papers and an additional conference paper in preparation, all in five months.”
As Scott says, “These projects have helped me in my confidence and ownership of the science and engineering I learned in my coursework. I look forward to continuing to apply the things I have learned in the lab as I go on to pursue my goal of becoming an astronaut.”
As the Research Next profile of Voke says, she has worked in ChE Professor Sarah Perry’s lab since 2017. Her experimental research projects investigate the fundamental principles of self-assembly of large polymer systems.
Voke focuses on complex coacervation, a dense, polymer-rich liquid phase that results from the interaction of oppositely charged polymers in water. While these types of materials have been used in industry for years, basic understanding of their self-assembly is limited.
“Complex coacervation has a long history of use in food and personal care products, which has been the subject of increasing excitement and research in the areas of encapsulation, drug delivery and stabilization, and underwater adhesion," says Voke.
Voke’s honors thesis research, which looks at the encapsulation of proteins into coacervate phases for drug delivery applications, has landed her an opportunity to collaborate with a Fortune 500 company headquartered in the United States. Voke has also worked in the Keasling lab at UC Berkeley as an Amgen Scholar.
“Research and class studies have intertwined and complemented each other throughout my undergraduate experience,” says Voke. “My research projects have fueled an interest in drug delivery and tissue engineering applications. They have taught me to think critically about problems, investigate solutions, and adapt quickly—all skills which have helped me navigate my rigorous curriculum.” (May 2020)