Thursday, January 2, 2014

MAE Alumnus, Douglas C. Hofmann, Earns Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Douglas C. Hofmann, an alumnus from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is developing bulk metallic glasses to be used as shielding for spacecraft to protect them against orbital debris impacts. For this and related work, Hofmann  has been named a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Douglas C. Hofmann
Hofmann earned a B.S. (’02) and M.S. (’03) in mechanical engineering from UC San Diego. He was advised by Kenneth Vecchio, now Professor and Chair in the NanoEngineering Department at UC San Diego. Hofmann went on to earn a M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science at Caltech before founding the Metallurgy Laboratory at NASA JPL in 2012, where he works as a Principle Investigator. Hofmann also teaches at Caltech, where he has a Visiting Associate appointment.

Hofmann is being honored “for his innovative research in metal-matrix composites for future NASA missions.”

In December 2012, Hofmann gave a seminar at UC San Diego on related work entitled “Amorphous Metals (AMs) & Composites for NASA Spacecraft Hardware; Science & Applications.” The abstract for that talk is below:

The current talk focuses on the science and applications of new materials for future NASA spacecraft, with emphasis on how real-world problems drive materials development. Among the materials that will be discussed are amorphous metals and bulk metallic glass composites. These materials have been developed for use as low-temperature gears for a future Mars rover, orbital debris shielding for spacecraft and satellites, net-shaped mirrors, cellular structures and optical mounts. In each application, a new material or manufacturing process enables a function that cannot be obtained through traditional techniques. Collaboration between Dr. Hofmann’s and Professor Vecchio’s groups on some of these materials will be discussed. The talk will also contain details on an upcoming NASA spaceflight experiment to the International Space Station in 2016 to perform fundamental physical science research using the new Materials Science Research Rack.
Images from hypervelocity impact testing experiments performed by Hofmann and colleagues at NASA. "We have been developing bulk metallic glasses to be used as shielding for spacecraft to protect them against orbital debris impacts. This is the same problem highlighted in the recent movie 'Gravity', Hoffman wrote in a recent email. 

The Presidential Early Career Awards, according to a statement released on the White House website, embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy.

“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” President Obama said. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancements that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”

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