“From fingertips to oil wells:
the role of tribology in the development of technologies
that power our lives and make them more livable”
Dr. Christian Schwartz, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M
Tribology – the study of the mechanics, friction and wear between materials in contact – is crucially important in the design of engineering systems, yet its complexity and its span of multiple research disciplines have posed considerable challenges to the advancement of the field. Two engineering pursuits are especially affected by deficiencies in our tribological understanding: the design of biomedical artifacts that contact the human body, and the design of materials and systems used in the extreme environments encountered in energy exploration and delivery. This talk will give an overview of my research work in understanding tribology both on the human body – skin frictional injury, haptic/tactile phenomena, and assistive technology for the visually impaired; as well as in the body – focused on the bearing surface materials in hip joint replacement devices. In addition to biotribology, my research involving the implications of tribology in the energy economy, from exploration and delivery to novel energy harvesting, will be presented. The research philosophies, methods, and results of this work provide very useful pedagogical resources for garnering student interest and investment in the engineering classroom. I will discuss my objectives and experiences in creating a problem-based learning environment that integrates design methodology, realistic case studies, novel assessment methods, and service learning to promote high-level learning in my university and outreach courses.
Dr. Schwartz is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, with a joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering. He is also a faculty member of the Materials Science and Engineering Program, and the Polymer Technology Center. He teaches in the areas of engineering design, materials science, mechanics, statistics, and tribology. He has been recognized for his classroom innovations with the A&M Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence, and the Brittan ’65 Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching. His research group focuses on problems that bridge biology, tribology, energy, and design, including extensive work with the friction and wear of polymers, biomaterials, and skin. He is a recipient of the NSF CAREER award, and he is a licensed professional engineer and holds three patents. As a senior research engineer at Southwest Research Institute® from 1998 to 2003, he served as a mechanical designer and project manager.