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Mechanical engineering grad student places first in an international ASME poster contest

Kyler Turner, a graduate student in mechanical engineering took first place in the poster contest at the 2009 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition.

Despite the fact that one of the poster session organizers at the 2009 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition complimented Kyler Turner on his poster, the University of Missouri mechanical engineering graduate student said he was surprised to learn that he had won first place in the poster contest.

“The research is interesting, and I was able to put it in simple terms,” Turner said modestly of the win at the conference sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Turner is a doctoral student in Assistant Professor Gary Solbrekken’s lab. The project he assists with is part of larger collaboration that is looking at the potential to efficiently produce an isotope – Molybdenium-99 – using low-enriched uranium. The isotope is used nationally on average of 30,000 times each day to diagnose cancer.

“No one in the country is producing this isotope, so it must be purchased abroad,” said Turner, explaining that success with the lower grade of uranium will expand the potential to produce the isotope.

“We are looking at the thermal-mechanical behavior and the expansion and stresses in the product. I don’t work directly with the nuclear material. It just so happens that the heat source for the process is nuclear,” he said.

Turner took nuclear engineering classes for his master’s degree in mechanical engineering, which influenced him to work on his master’s in nuclear engineering while working on his doctorate in mechanical engineering. He will continue to work in Solbrekken’s lab.

“Kyler has done an outstanding job in helping to establish test methods using surrogate samples, as replicating the actual nuclear samples for lab testing is impossible,” said Solbrekken.

“The poster describes one technique that allows the samples to be tested such that we can ensure they will meet the thermal technical requirements established by a reactor.”

“I worked as an intern at the Y-12 National Security Complex last summer. Being in that environment made me realize that I wanted to eventually work in a national lab,” Turner said. “I have no idea what the world has in store for me. I’m just making contacts, filling my plate and selling myself as much as I can.”

Turner expects the paper on which he based his poster to be submitted to mechanical engineering professional journals, and that the next step in the research project is to build an experimental model in the lab.