News

May 15, 2001

Lafayette Mechanical Engineering Major Steve Ryder Receives Department of Defense Fellowship to Study Nanotechnology at UC Berkeley

Lafayette Marquis Scholar Steve Ryder, a senior mechanical engineering major from Pitman, N.J., has received a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to study nanotechnology at the University of California, Berkeley, beginning this fall. Since the program’s inception in 1989, only five percent of NDSEG Fellowship applicants have been accepted.

Through the fellowship, the Department of Defense will pay all tuition and fees for Ryder’s education over the next three years.

“Lafayette’s program is very strong and definitely should prepare me well,” says Ryder, a top student who was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa society as a junior last spring.

Within the nanotechnology field, he will study microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), in which very small machines are constructed with the same technology used for microchips. Innovations have led to development of gears, pumps, and motors measuring less than one millimeter across.

“This is a relatively new wave of engineering,” notes Ryder, saying that UC Berkeley — located in Silicon Valley – is one of the best universities in the country for studying MEMS.

Biological engineers have worked on MEMS devices that can swim in the bloodstream to seek and destroy individual cancer cells. Another example is use of small jets to blow air around a car to improve its aerodynamics.

“You could have a ‘blocky’ car, but the air jets would make it have the aerodynamics of a Ferrari,” says Ryder.

Ryder’s project may be development of “labs on a chip,” he explains, involving quick detection of chemical agents in biofluids. “MEMS is a very cross-disciplinary field, incorporating things from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biology,” says Ryder. “All sorts of other things come together to produce these devices, which I like because I toyed with the idea of double majoring in electrical and mechanical engineering.”

Nanotechnology, the science of creating materials and devices at atomic and molecular levels, has tremendous potential to affect people in the next decade, revolutionizing areas taken for granted today.

“Medicine is a major area for it, but the automotive industry and national defense are others,” says Ryder. “The possible applications are endless.”

As a participant in Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars program, in which students collaborate closely with faculty members while earning a stipend, Ryder worked with Laura Ruhala, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, to design a car frame for a vehicle that he and other Lafayette engineering students built to compete in the annual Mini Baja off-road competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

He also studied the mixing of very viscous liquids as an EXCEL Scholar with Erol Ulucakli, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

In January 2000 Ryder traveled halfway around the world to take a distinctive, three-week Interim Session course called Inside the People’s Republic of China, taught by Kim D. Bennett, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Paul Barclay, assistant professor of history. The students gained insight into practices and characteristics of distinct Chinese subcultures by traveling to Bejing in the north, Kunming in the southwest, and Guangzhou on the southeast coast. They met with government officials and business people, attended arts performances, and visited a factory, hospital, and university.

Ryder played drums in the Lafayette Pep Band and served as computer-system manager for the college newspaper, The Lafayette. His sister, Carrie Ryder, graduated from Lafayette last year with a bachelor of science degree in geology summa cum laude with departmental honors. His father is Henry Ryder ’67.

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