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PhD. candidate Matthew Vaughan smiles for a photo.
Matthew Vaughan has spent almost 12 years at Texas A&M University and will finish his doctoral work in May. | Image: Courtesy of Matthew Vaughan

Doctoral candidate Matthew Vaughan’s curtain call at Texas A&M University will have him finish on top by earning a distinguished graduate award in research.

The Distinguished Graduate Student Awards recognize the top tier of Texas A&M's graduate students for exemplifying the university’s core values in classrooms and laboratories. These awards have been presented annually since 1965 thanks to generous gifts to The Association of Former Students' Annual Fund.

His Ph.D. research primarily focuses on developing an additive manufacturing framework for steel processing while also enhancing steel's property limits with different technologies.

He believes the framework is helpful to the research community because it describes the parameters for the machine and how to optimize them to obtain quality prints.

Vaughan will graduate in May, marking the end of an over-decade-long tenure at the university.

"It’s a real honor to be selected for this award. I have been working with materials science for 11 years and am so thankful for everyone’s support in the nomination and selection processes," he said.

Vaughan started as a transfer student in industrial engineering in 2012 and started working in Dr. Ibrahim Karaman’s Microstructural Engineering of Structural and Active Materials (MESAM) lab group in April of that year. His undergraduate research focused on magnesium alloy development and formability studies. He learned as an undergraduate student some basic hands-on metallurgy, polishing samples, running mechanical tests and conducting materials processing.

“What distinguishes him is that he’s very detail-oriented,” Karaman said. “He has amazing attention to detail and then he has his ideas. He has suggestions. I mean, he’s a really good researcher, and also, he is very motivated, driven.”

Karaman likes to send out nominations and aims to spotlight students with well-built publication records, meaning typically, the candidate must have several first-authored papers and co-authored papers, ideally beyond 10 total.

Vaughan is the third-straight student from the department to earn a graduate student award. “We try to nurture our students and then help them grow career-wise,” he said.

During his undergraduate and master’s studies, Vaughan’s topics included studying mechanical property enhancements of lightweight magnesium alloys, strengthening and toughening lightweight and ultra-high-strength steels, and studying the corrosion of magnesium alloys for biomedical applications. His research geared more toward additive manufacturing and property enhancements of steel alloys during his Ph.D.

Some of his research has been useful to military branches like the Navy, Army and Air Force. The Navy uses high-strength steels for submarine hulls, the Air Force uses them for bunker buster/penetrant munitions and the Army uses them for lightweight armor applications. Making these steels with additive manufacturing technologies will prove to be incredibly advantageous for future defense applications.

The materials science and engineering department has been helpful to Vaughan in garnering hands-on experience in engineering and understanding how the work applies in the real world.

“It's been fascinating to see the department grow so much because I was there before it was even at the department level. I've been with the materials science department from the beginning and was one of the first students in the department, and to be there for it to blossom and its reputation to grow a lot has been really cool to see,” he said. "For me, it's a little nostalgic looking back on the time because one chapter is kind of closing for me, but I will always have a soft spot for Texas A&M and the materials science and engineering department."