RAPID CITY, S.D. (Jan. 29, 2015) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Assistant Professor Venkataramana Gadhamshetty, Ph.D., P.E., with the prestigious CAREER award that carries a $500,000 research grant.
Over the next five years, the award will fund Gadhamshetty’s research that could pave the way for the next generation of minimally invasive, corrosion-resistant coatings for infrastructure. The annual cost of microbial corrosion on infrastructure is estimated to reach nearly $1 billion in the United States alone.
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the NFS’s most prestigious awards to support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.
Gadhamshetty joined SD Mines’ Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering faculty last fall. He previously trained as an Excellence in Civil and Engineering Education Fellow with the American Society of Civil Engineers. He also received the Oakridge Institute of Science & Education Fellowship to conduct research at the Air Force Research Laboratory. He has previously taught at Florida Gulf Coast University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
He began his current research two years ago while collaborating with graphene experts at Rensselaer.
Microbial corrosion accounts for 20-40 percent of total corrosion costs in infrastructure throughout America and reduces the performance of sprinkler systems, water pipelines, oil pipelines, medical appliances and boat hulls, for example.
While there are several commercial protective coatings for metal protection, they tend to fail in the aqueous and microbial environments. Gadhamshetty’s research features graphene as a promising new protectant because it is 300 times stronger than steel, 1,000 times more conductive than silicon and is optically transparent.
“Considering that graphene is the world’s thinnest material – thinner than human hair – it was always fascinating to probe the fundamental details on how such a thin material can solve the multibillion dollar corrosion problem. There are several other reasons why graphene can be considered a natural wonder of the materials world,” Gadhamshetty said, referring to its strength and conductivity.
“This is a great start to Dr. Gadhamshetty’s research career at Mines in an area of great importance to the nation. The development of coatings that help metal resist rust can save billions of dollars,” said President Heather Wilson. “We look forward to the results of his work.”
Besides integrating graphene research into the curriculum through innovative educational modules, Gadhamshetty’s goals include identifying undergraduates and summer interns from the Native American population to assist in his research efforts.
“We hope this experience will help more students feel the joy of research and discovery and build their motivation to seek advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines,” Gadhamshetty said. “The National Science Foundation provides boundless opportunities for students and young investigators to pursue research of their interest. The undergraduate students should take advantage of resources provided by NSF. I hope this project will help me develop exciting opportunities for undergraduates to learn about the emerging applications of nanotechnology, and at the same time increase the awareness of the environmental challenges posed by the modern world.”
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelors, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,798 students from 45 states and 39 foreign countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 98 percent, with an average early career salary for graduates of $65,600, according to the 2014-2015 PayScale report. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.