WSU student wins international award

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Eric Engen shows his trophy. BARTHOLOME RONDET

Eric Engen shows his trophy.
BARTHOLOME RONDET

Michelle Peterson/Winonan

Eric Engen, a senior at Winona State University, won the international JEC Americas Student Award for his research in identifying unknown composites.

JEC is a worldwide organization with annual conferences on composites in Asia, Europe and North America.

“It’s definitely neat,” Engen said. “I don’t know if that’s the right word.”

Engen helped develop a method of determining unknown polymers, or plastics.

“If you know what the unknown polymer is, you can use it more efficiently instead of combining two different polymers to produce properties,” Engen said.

Professor Beckry Abdel-Magid worked with Engen on this research. This year, the JEC award was on recycling composites, so Abdel-Magid encouraged Engen to apply.

“It’s a big honor for Winona State to compete internationally in the area of composite materials,” Abdel-Magid said. “It shows we are working in cutting-edge areas of interest to the industry.”

Abdel-Magid said that when people throw plastic containers in recycling, they get mixed together on their way to the processing plant. In some cases, companies have a difficult time identifying materials in order to categorize plastics.

Engen explained the process of identifying polymers starts with taking an unknown polymer and heating it up in the absence of oxygen, so it doesn’t burn.

Then they collect the gas sample that results and analyze it to figure out exactly what is contained in it, Engen said.
Using recycled materials is economically cheaper and better for the environment.

“We could always improve the process,” Engen said.

Engen said he didn’t realize how big the award was, so he was surprised when he won it.

Mark Engen, a professor at Winona State and Eric’s father, said, “It was a big honor for Eric to win the award, and we are very proud of him.”

Mark Engen said Eric put a lot of time into his research project over the last year and has done some interesting work characterizing recycled material stock.

Mark Engen said JEC is primarily based in Europe, but it is trying to increase its presence in the United States.

“It was exciting to see the pictures of Eric accepting his award in front of the large, international audience,” Mark Engen said.

Engen will present his paper and poster at a conference in spring. He is still deciding which conference.

Engen will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in composite materials engineering. Engen said he is debating between going to graduate school and going into the industry after graduation.

Contact Michelle at MPeterson10@winona.edu

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