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Alumnus returns to MU as new faculty member

A man stands in front of a railing looking up slightly at the camera.

Matthew Maschmann earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Engineering in 2000 and 2002, respectively. After earning his doctorate at Purdue University and working in industry for seven years, he returned to his alma mater as a faculty for the department that gave him his start.

Taking on the role of assistant professor of mechanical engineering makes a full circle for Matthew Maschmann. A department alumnus for his undergraduate and master’s degrees in 2000 and 2002, respectively, he will now work along with some of his former mentors, such as his master’s adviser, C.W. LaPierre Professor Bill Ma.

Pursing his master’s degree at MU, Maschmann researched condensation and heat transfer for cooling electrics. However, while working on his doctorate at Purdue University, Maschmann began working with nano-scale materials. His work under Professor Timothy Fisher at Purdue began with heat transfer and progressed into new research areas.

“They had a very strong heat transfer group that connected me to my adviser,” he said. “There was also a newly-funded center for nanoparticles and materials that my adviser got involved in. He talked to me about the research in this center, and I thought it sounded very interesting.”

The doctoral candidate began researching the manufacturing processes for nano-scale materials, particularly, vertically aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs). He graduated in 2006, putting research aside and joining industry with a job at Intel Corp. as a thermal test engineer.

“We tested the ‘infant mortality’ of processor chips, so when processor chips come off the assembly line, we’d put them through all sorts of extreme conditions.”

Wanting to return to research, particularly the research he enjoyed as a doctoral student, Maschmann took a position as a research scientist working with the organic matrix composite materials group — which specializes in materials for aerial vehicles — at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

He concentrated on airflow sensors for micro, “insect-sized” aerial vehicles. Hairs on insects’ skin inspired the design of the sensors, so “hair” was created by growing CNTs around the microfiber sensor shaft.  One end of the sensor is capped with a set of electrodes that act as an artificial nerve cell. As low-speed winds deflect the vertical sensors, the electrodes measured resistance fluctuations in the spongy CNT surround.

Much of the challenge, Maschmann said, was creating the design for the several micrometer-wide sensors and growing the CNTs in a confined geometry. It’s a new technology that has room to expand.

Maschmann came across the position at MU by chance. He hadn’t been looking for a new job, but then a work colleague told him about the opening.

“Academia was always a backburner thought,” Maschmann said. “When a position in my old department became available, I thought I should at least give it a try.”

He said he’s looking forward to be able to continue conducting research while being able to teach others.

“I want to continue exploring nano-manufacturing,” he said. “My lab will have the capabilities to make and characterize CNTs.”

Maschmann began his position in August. He is originally from Washington, Mo., and has a wife, Shauna, and 5-year-old twins, Ben and Sydney.