Undergraduate Research Experience

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SIU student Ryan Spencer

My name is Ryan Spencer.  I am a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I have been working as an undergraduate research assistant (URA) in the IMEL since Fall 2013.  I received this opportunity to work under the supervision of Dr. Chu from Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) program in SIU.  Working as an URA in IMEL has been a learning experience.  My experience in the IMEL has ranged from multiple topics. 

My main focus in the lab has been the non-destructive evaluation (NDE) of polymer matrix composites, specifically, carbon/epoxy composite laminates using ultrasonics and infrared thermography approaches. Learning to fabricate carbon/epoxy composite laminates with/without engineered defects for different experiments in the lab and testing them by using Immersion Ultrasonic Testing and Infrared Thermography to identify and quantify these defects is really exciting.  In addition, I have worked directly with our Ph.D. students in various research projects.  One of the exciting project was supported from Office of Naval Research (ONR) and it dealt with the NDE of Kissing Bonds by using NDE methods. For this project, I was involved in creating “kissing bonds” samples. Kissing bonds occurs in the adhesive joints in presence of contamination and these bonds do not fully adhered to the desired surface and does not have enough strength. NDE methods are often applied to detect and quantify kissing bonds so as to ensure structural integrity and safety. Another project that I am currently working on is the effects of curing pressure in the formation of porosity in carbon fiber composite laminate samples.  If there is a malfunction in the manufacturing process, porosity is the main side effect which can hinder the carbon fibers overall strength. Determining and quantifying if a sample has porosity using NDE methods is very beneficial.