UAB’s Monroe savors Air Force fellowship

Teaching, research, and service are three important areas that professors need to excel in to be effective. Also important is what they do in the summer, since it’s not exclusively for vacations, although taking time for fun is healthy.

For Dr. Charles Monroe of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the Air Force Research Lab Summer Faculty Fellowship Program was a way to hit these important areas. According to its website, the program “offers hands-on exposure to Air Force research challenges through 8- to 12-week research residencies at participating Air Force research facilities for full-time science, mathematics, and engineering faculty at U.S. colleges and universities.”

Monroe applied to the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base. His proposal focused on castings which could be produced at UAB, and then featured at the Air Force base under the direction of their research team. Confirmation of the awarded fellowship came, and at the end of the 2018 spring semester, Monroe’s family was traveling to Florida to spend the summer.

Dr. Charles Monroe (green tie) took part in a U.S. Air Force fellowship program.

The fellowship process began with Monroe reaching out to mentor Dr. Sean Gibbons within the Air Force to ensure the proposal was of interest and relevant to the program.

Monroe was paired with a student who applied for this summer experience to work on the proposed task. Days were spent in a quiet office writing manuscripts or code, at a conference site for discussion with students and Air Force researchers, or in the lab to review characterization of the samples.

“By far, the lab was the most exciting place to spend time,” Monroe said. “And since we were on the ‘range’ where munitions testing was conducted, some days were interrupted by the speaker system announcing the evacuation of the site for another test.”

As a simple measure of progress, Monroe and his team produced 300 GB of images of polished microstructure samples across six castings, as well as a prototype MATLAB code to analyze the casting conditions. This work was submitted to the international ICASP conference and will be developed further in the UAB program both for research as well as teaching students.

“I believe opportunities like this add to a professor’s ability to bring enthusiasm and uniqueness to the metalcasting student’s experience, and it’s a good change of pace,” Monroe said.

Click here to see this story as it appears in the April 2019 issue of Modern Casting