Pierce earns NDSEG Fellowship for work in metamaterials

6/5/2019 Veronica Holloway

Written by Veronica Holloway

Connor Pierce
Connor Pierce
MechSE graduate student Connor Pierce earned a competitive National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) for his work in metamaterials.

Pierce works in the Wave Propagation and Metamaterials Laboratory with Assistant Professor Kathryn Matlack, who studies how elastic waves move through different materials. Pierce, a PhD candidate, focuses on designing metamaterials which use coupled physics to achieve active control of wave propagation. The metamaterial consists of a soft rubber with iron particles in it, known as a magneto active elastomer. The material can be tuned by subjecting it to different magnetic fields to block different ranges of wave frequencies from passing through it. 

In designing these materials, solid mechanics, dynamics, and vibration calculations are all very important as well as running Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulations. In metamaterials currently, there are a lot of papers on either theory or computation, but in the Wave Propagation and Metamaterials Laboratory Pierce has also begun to do experimentation. Using strong magnets at varied distances from the material, he can test to see if the expected frequency ranges of vibrations travel through the subject based on the strength of the magnetic field. The results can help validate or refine their simulations.

Pierce’s work falls mostly within fundamental research, but the applications are vast, making it of particular interest to the U.S. military. The project started in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab where Pierce used their 3D printer to build a research structure out of his specific metamaterial.

His experience at the Air Force Lab introduced him to the NDSEG fellowship, which supports the work of graduate students doing research that could be helpful to the U.S. military. 

“Really what they’re doing is they’re investing in you,” Pierce said. “They are investing in me as a researcher so that the United States has a strong talent pool of researchers that can study these topics of interest to the military.”

With Pierce aspiring to go into academia, this fellowship and investment into his work is invaluable, enabling him to continue making strides in metamaterials research and experimentation.  

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This story was published June 5, 2019.