Inaugural Materials Science and Engineering Awards honor outstanding accomplishments

2016 MSEN awards

From left to right: Dr. Miladin Radovic, Diyar Dhannoon, Amy Bolon, Dr. Fernando Soto, Yenny Cubides-Gonzalez, Kevin Holder and Dr. Michael Demkowicz


 The inaugural Materials Science and Engineering Awards at Texas A&M University honored eight graduate students, one recent graduate and a post-doctoral researcher for their exceptional research, teaching and entrepreneurship.

Graduate students Luke Johnson and Yenny Cubides-Gonzalez were each awarded the Best M.S. Thesis Award. Johnson was recognized for his thesis, “A Computational Framework For The Prediction of Multistage Heat Treatments in Age Hardened Alloys." His work pioneered new methods for alloy design using high-performance computational techniques. Cubides-Gonzalez received the award for her thesis, "Performance of Zinc-Rich Epoxy Primers Containing Carbon Nanotubes of the Corrosion Protection of Carbon Steel in Simulated Concrete Pore Environments.” Her work led to a first-authored publication in the scientific journal, Corrosion.

Dr. Liangfa Hu received the Best Ph.D. Thesis Award for his outstanding performance in the Ph.D. program. His doctoral thesis, “Fabrication and characterization of interpenetrating metal/ternary carbide composites,” led to the creation of a new class of damage-tolerant materials. Due to his outstanding research and service in materials science and engineering, he was asked to speak at the 2015 graduate commencement ceremony at Texas A&M. He graduated in spring 2015 and joined Ames Research Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow.

Kevin Holder received the Best Paper Graduate Student Award for his first-authored paper, "Carbon Nanotube Multilayer Nano coatings Prevent Flame Spread on Flexible Polyurethane Foam," published in Macromolecular Materials and Engineering. This paper detailed the development and testing of a coating that prevents residential fires by reducing the spread of flames on common home furnishings. This paper was also selected by the editors to be the cover article for the June 2016 issue of the journal.

“There is no one more deserving of this best paper award,” said Dr. Jaime Grunlan, professor and holder of Linda & Ralph Schmidt ’63 Professorship in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “The subject of safe flame retardant treatments has a very high impact and Kevin is a research powerhouse.”

Dr. Fernando Soto received the Best Paper Post-Doc Award for his outstanding, peer-reviewed publication, "Formation and Growth Mechanisms of Solid-Electrolyte Interphase Layers in Rechargeable Batteries," published in Chemistry of Materials. Soto’s research explained the mechanisms by which batteries degrade when subjected to repeated charge/discharge cycles.

Amy Bolon was awarded the Excellence in Outreach Award to recognize her community service and outreach activities. Since 2014, she has been the president of the Materials Advantage Student Chapter at Texas A&M and Women in Materials Science, a student organization in the department. Bolon’s outreach, however, was not restricted to materials science and engineering. She was also active in several organizations within the college of engineering and the college of science.

Diyar Dhannoon received the Outstanding Teacher Award for his work as co-instructor in MSEN 602, a graduate-level class focusing on the fundamental physical properties of solids. Dhannoon’s commitment to one-on-one instruction earned him the appreciation and respect of his students.

Finally, the TriFusion Devices team won the 2016 Entrepreneurship Award. The team includes materials science and engineering students Blake Teipel and Brandon Sweeney along with Britton Eastburn, a student at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s College of Medicine and the Mays Business School. Together, they co-founded TriFusion Devices in 2016. The company produces medical devices through additive manufacturing (3-D printing). The team won the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition and the 2016 Baylor New Ventures Competition.

“Brandon and Blake constantly push themselves to do excellent work that touches upon both cutting-edge science and real-world technological needs,” said Dr. Micah Green, associate professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering and an affiliated faculty member in materials science and engineering.