Two Materials Engineering Students Receive Awards, Feb. 10, 2000

SOCORRO, N.M., February 9, 2000 -- Nathan J. Berg, a senior majoring in materials engineering at New Mexico Tech, and Melissa Valerie Collins, a Tech graduate student pursuing a master's degree in materials engineering, recently were awarded the New Mexico Section of the American Ceramic Society's (ACerS) top undergraduate and graduate student awards.

Before coming to Tech, Berg was home-schooled in his hometown of Veguita, in north-central Socorro County. He is the son of Bill and Orla Berg of Veguita.

Collins, a graduate of A. J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, is the daughter of Pamela Sortore and Michael Wade Collins of Anchorage.

A scholarship certificate and monetary award of $500 was presented to Berg and a research award of $500 was presented to Collins by Terry Mitchell of Los Alamos National Laboratory, the national vice president of ACerS, at a recent meeting of the New Mexico Section of ACerS.

In addition to his regular classwork at New Mexico Tech, Berg currently is working on his senior design project--a characterization of highly loaded barium titanate and hydroxyapatite slurries for direct fabrication processes.

Berg's senior thesis research topic has direct applications to piezoelectric biomedical implants which could be used to promote bone growth through electrical stimuli.

Collins currently is investigating combustion synthesis and the effects that varying processing parameters have on the physical properties--namely, surface area and pore size--of alpha-alumina, a research project which is sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories.

"I'm also doing research for Westinghouse in Carlsbad, New Mexico, concerning the materials for the large surface and small subsurface marker systems, radar reflectors, and magnets for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site, which is also located near Carlsbad," Collins says. "In addition, I will soon be making specialty phosphors by combustion synthesis at the request of a former employee of Oak Ridge National Laboratory."

Berg, the president of the New Mexico Tech chapter of the Alpha Sigma Mu materials science honor society, also is a recent recipient of the Paige Ashman Memorial Prize, an award given to Tech students who have demonstrated excellence in the field of materials and metallurgical engineering.

As a student intern, Berg has worked with the Advanced Materials Laboratory at Sandia National Laboratories, conducting research on the dispersion and suspension of poly (methyl-methacrylate) spheres.

Berg has also been involved with other ongoing research projects which deal with the direct fabrication of alumina and mullite ceramics.

"New Mexico Tech is the best educational bargain in the country," Berg says. "It has an excellent faculty-to-student ratio, and the instructors are very approachable and open to students from different departments."

Collins is a member of ACerS, ASM/TMS International Materials Society, and the New Mexico Tech chapter of the Society for Women Engineers.

"New Mexico Tech offers a great materials engineering education at an affordable price," she says.