Mines News

Release Date Monday, August 29, 2016

Local High School Students Research Orthopedic Implants, Waterproof Paper & Friction Stir Welding at Mines

Holly Gerberding examines titanium nanotubes with the goal of modifying the surface of orthopedic implants to aid bone growth and prevent the need for revision surgeries.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Aug. 29, 2016) – Local high school students from Rapid City and Sturgis spent their summer immersed in research, collaborating with SD Mines graduate students and faculty on titanium biomedical implants; waterproof coatings for paper used in security printing; and friction stir welded high-strength steel for automotive applications.

Sponsored by the Army Education Outreach Program, SD Mines hosted the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship (REAP) program, which provides opportunities for high school students to conduct research for five to eight weeks. 

“I have been involved with the program for five years and have been lucky to work with some very talented students.  This summer’s students were outstanding!” said Program Director Michael West, Ph.D., who is also the head of the Department of Materials & Metallurgical Engineering.

Sturgis Brown High School senior Holly Gerberding developed titanium nanotubes with the goal of modifying the surface of orthopedic implants to aid bone growth and prevent the need for revision surgeries. 

Her interest in Mines was piqued when she competed at the 2016 High Plains Regional Science Fair, hosted on campus, and placed second in the biology division. Gerberding’s project focused on the rising resistance to antibiotics. By separating the basic, neutral, and acidic compounds of tea tree oil to see which would inhibit the growth of Staph, Strep, or E. coli, she found the neutral compound stopped the growth of E. coli – a project she’s developing for this year’s science fair. 

A sophomore at Central High School, Gabrielle Smith was a veteran of the Materials, Metallurgy, and Forensics summer camp at Mines when she joined the REAP program. During the apprenticeship, Smith worked to develop super-hydrophobic coatings for security printing applications, with the idea this waterproof paper could be used in passports. 

With a future goal of pairing neurosurgery with a doctorate in biomedical engineering, Smith saw a natural extension of her lab research in patient care.

“I think when you’re taking research and technology from the lab to your patient’s bedside, you can definitely help them a lot more. If you could take this sort of concept in metallurgy, you could potentially create self-cleaning surgical tools,” Smith said, as super-hydrophobic coatings prevent mold, fight bacteria, and self-clean from contamination of fingerprints and natural oils. She added the valuable experience and connections gained would give her a competitive edge in the college application process.

Stevens High School senior Hawky Cummings worked with shape memory alloys, which revert to their original shape when heated and allow for a more economical welding process. He also analyzed powder to be used in the laser processing of metals and samples for friction stir welding high-strength steel for automotive applications. 

Mentors are a key component of the REAP program. Gerberding, Smith and Cummings were all paired with graduate students and professors who interfaced continually with the students, allowing them to observe, assist and be taught at the same time.

Student mentors included biomedical engineering master’s student Jevin Meyerink; materials engineering and science doctorate students Lelia Sorkhi and Jacob Petersen, and civil and environmental engineering undergraduate Logan Gayton. Faculty mentors included Grant Crawford, William Cross, Jon Kellar, and Bharat Jasthi, Ph.Ds. in the materials and metallurgical engineering department.

Around 120 students at over 50 universities nationwide participate in REAP each year. Up to 90 percent of REAP participants pursue STEM studies at the post-secondary level.  

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About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

Contact: Dani Mason, (605) 394-2554, danielle.mason@sdsmt.edu