Use MSE Knowledge To Solve Diverse Engineering Issues

By Alec Arbia, Written Communications Assistant

Paul Su, UConn MSE alum (‘97), who became a member of the department’s External Advisory Board in March 2023.

Paul Su earned his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering (MSE) from UConn in 1997, and in March 2023, he became a member of the department’s External Advisory Board. Su says that during his time at UConn he “became fascinated by the behavior of materials and their applications, the processes used to create them, and the underlying principles of their properties.”

Su chose to pursue his degree at UConn after receiving a letter of interest from Professor Owen Devereux, who later became Su’s Ph.D. advisor. “Professor Devereux profoundly impacted my professional career and how I approach science and projects. During my studies I had many inspiring discussions with him about surface science and electrochemistry, which taught me the importance of analyzing data rigorously. I enjoyed approaching questions from various perspectives, and he always encouraged me to propose ideas, engage in open discussions, and focus on my research progress. Additionally, Professor Devereux’s book “Topics in Metallurgical Thermodynamics” is always near when I need to go back to fundamentals and refresh my mind. After graduation, he and his wife became my mentors and good friends.”

Currently, Su works as a principal research scientist at FM Global, a property insurance company. “Equipment failure caused by corrosion and material degradation is a significant cause of losses for our clients. Such equipment includes fire sprinkler systems, industrial boilers, pressure vessels, high-energy piping, transformers, gas and steam turbines, and more. As a principal research scientist, I have led and participated in projects related to material degradation, corrosion mitigation, failure analysis, and loss prevention practices. I have also provided consultation to our global operations and engineering divisions.”

Su has been providing risk consultation services since joining FM Global in 2004. “My role primarily focuses on MSE principles, including corrosion, metallurgy, polymers, chemistry, and failure analysis. As the materials science team leader, I work with scientists and technologists with backgrounds in MSE, polymers, chemistry, and engineering. We have seven labs supporting research in materials science, analytical chemistry, polymers, and materials damage.”

“My favorite part of my job is the opportunity to use MSE knowledge to solve diverse engineering issues,” Su said. “The issues are often challenging and unique, so figuring out approaches to them is gratifying. The experience that I have gained in the aerospace and chemical industries has been invaluable in helping me navigate the process.” 

Su explained how in 2013 he received a patent for “Combined Plug and Sealing Ring for Sprinkler Nozzle and Related Methods.” “FM Global pioneered the development of a corrosion-resistant fire protection system for extremely corrosive environments, consisting of mixed acid fumes and high velocity particles flowing inside industrial exhaust ducts. This system comprises newly developed sprinkler nozzles, linear heat detector wires and fire control panels, flexible sprinkler connections, and accessories. Altogether, it helps to mitigate damage to the combustible exhaust ducts in the event of a fire, which can lead to plant shutdown for an extended time along with substantial financial losses. We shared this technology with a vendor that commercialized the first Duct Fire Protection Deluge System in 2014. FM Global approved it, allowing our loss prevention engineers to work with insurance clients on successful field installations. It now protects exhaust systems found in steel and alloy manufacturing, power generation, the chemical industry, pulp and paper plants, and metallurgical gas cleaning and acid plants.”

The recipient of seven industry awards, Su was particularly honored to receive the Fellow recognition of National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) in 2020. “This award is special to me as it acknowledges my contribution to corrosion science since graduating from UConn.”

When asked what advice he has for current MSE students, Su said the following: “UConn MSE is unique due to the diverse expertise of its faculty members. Spend time talking to them and participating in projects that align with your interests. I encourage you to ask questions and establish a good mentorship with the professors, as this could be an enriching experience for you in the years to come. Additionally, it is important to keep an open mind, even about topics that may not seem relevant to your career. Take the time to hone your problem-solving skills.”  

Published: January 23, 2024

Categories: alumni, industry, news

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