KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two Western Michigan University students are being touted for their innovative approach to helping structures better withstand extreme weather, earthquakes and other threats.
Israel Medrano and Sneha Nath earned a top 15 recognition for their research in structural adhesives at the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program, which assists universities and colleges in the diversification of the STEM workforce.
“This is breakthrough research and technology,” says Medrano, a mechanical engineering major who was responsible for testing and classifying these adhesives. “This research is evidence of how high-performance adhesives could be used to enhance structures resiliency and performance. Companies are interested in new ideas and applications such as those we studied.”
For her role, Nath, a biomedical sciences major, reviewed the scholarly literature about the ASTM International standards so the team could apply that information to different testing methods, such as tensile and shear. She also tested the adhesives using Instron machines, which collect data during tension, compression and bend tests, and helped build conclusions on which one was best performing.
“Weather is getting more unpredictable over time and if we don’t use the correct tools to build important structures, including our homes, the structures can be unsafe,” says Nath. “Our whole message is that we must use structural adhesives that have great mechanical and even chemical properties and that changing needs require advances in adhesive.”
As a result of their research initiative and LSAMP recognition, Eaton Corporation invited Medrano and Nath to the recent Eaton Annual Experience Week to share their research and participate in the professional research conference.
“Attending the Eaton conference reinforced my perspective that research and industry are always working together,” says Medrano. “Industries are always looking for new ideas and breakthrough technologies to make an impact on the market.”
Under the supervision of Brian Montgomery, director of the Bronco Construction Research Center in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and principal investigator, Dr. Xiaoyun Shao, associate professor of civil and construction engineering, the duo produced a classification system based on mechanical and qualitative properties of high-performance adhesives. “The students, the University, and the center demonstrated national-level and top tier recognition, not to mention breakthrough research discoveries regarding the classification of adhesives,” points out Montgomery.
Ana Gabriela Polit, a double major in industrial and entrepreneurial engineering and environmental studies, supported the research as project manager, applying her skills with Microsoft Project and data analysis, as well as creating operation procedures for the hydraulic Instron, wind table and an electric Instron. Polit has worked as a student assistant in the Bronco Construction Research Center since 2020.
The practical application of the research is in nonconventional adhesive applications. Potentially, adhesives could be applied in systems and structures where they have never been applied, providing a better performance than the conventional materials. Some examples include top plate-rafter connections, shear wall and roofing systems.
By participating in both the LSAMP initiative and the Eaton Corporation event, team members were able to share their ideas and knowledge with other researchers; learn what the research community is focusing on; discover what most interests businesses in the industry; and interact with professionals in their field.
Nath highly recommends the LSAMP program to engineering students. “It will push you way out of your comfort zone but also provide you with a great, meaningful experience.”
About Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Leadership and Academic Enhancement Program, named in honor of former Ohio congressman Louis Stokes, is a National Science Foundation funded program intended to support historically underrepresented students in STEM fields.
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