MSE Graduate Student Contributes to Aerospace Innovation

By Kyra Arena, Written Communications Assistant

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MSE graduate student Sarswad Rommel (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Sarshad Rommel had five requirements when he was searching for a MSE graduate program: Excellent advisors, exciting research projects, strong support systems for international students, fun colleagues and opportunities for his future career path. All were provided by UConn’s Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) department.

Prior to attending UConn MSE, Rommel always had some level of interest in most fields of science and engineering. However, he chose to pursue materials science and engineering because of its highly collaborative nature with other areas of science, claiming that “most practical and commercial applications of scientific research are eventually bottlenecked by materials constraints that can only be overcome through materials research.” Rommel obtained a B.Tech and MS degree in metallurgical engineering and materials science from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. His degrees were a part of an integrated dual-degree program, and his master’s work specialized in ceramics and composites.

It was while still being an undergraduate student that he had the opportunity to explore UConn. During the summers of 2014 and 2015, Rommel worked with MSE Professor Eric Jordan, now emeritus professor, as an intern. During this time, he got to work with UConn professors, interact with students and learn more about the MSE graduate program.

Ultimately, choosing UConn MSE to pursue his Ph.D. was an easy decision. “UConn has cutting-edge research facilities and industrial outreach. The Innovation Partnership Building is a world-class facility that houses state-of-the-art instruments,” he says.

Rommel has been a part of Professor Mark Aindow’s research group since 2016. Here, he enjoys working with sophisticated electron microscopy and characterization equipment. “Professor Aindow has been an excellent mentor throughout my graduate career, and under his guidance I have grown by leaps and bounds as a researcher,” he says. “He has helped me learn through both guided and independent research, and has encouraged me to take charge of my projects when possible, providing me with valuable experience.”

Professor Aindow’s research group focuses on microstructural development in engineering materials.

Rommel’s research interests include the development of alloys, process-property-microstructure relationships in alloys and corrosion behavior of aluminum alloys. His thesis research, funded by Collins Aerospace, “involved investigating corrosion phenomena in new generation aluminum alloys through microscopy and materials characterization techniques to understand the process-property-microstructure relationships and aid in development of these alloys for superior corrosion resistance.”

In 2021, Rommel co-published four research papers. Two focused on the effects of thermal treatments on the high strength corrosion-resistant aluminum alloys for aerospace applications, another dealt with the effects of Calcium Magnesium Alumino-Silicate (CMAS) viscosity on its infiltration in thermal barrier coatings and the last helped shed light on the mechanism of the uniquely high recoverable strain observed in SrNi2P2 micropillars.

His research is extremely important to help delay the corrosion of aircraft materials. “The average direct annual costs associated with corrosion in the U.S. aircraft industry is estimated to be around $2.2 billion,” Rommel says. “My research is directed towards the mitigation of these costs.”

Post-graduation, Rommel plans to continue his work as a post-doctorate member of Professor Aindow’s research group. In the future, he aspires to be a materials scientist in the industry. However, he is entirely grateful for his experience in UConn’s MSE department. “I have gained much during my time as a graduate student, personally as well as professionally. I have made life-long friendships here, developed new hobbies that I had never considered before, and gained much clarity regarding a career path that I would like to follow,” he says. “My time at UConn has truly been life-changing.”

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