Kirchner earns scholars award for glass research from American Ceramic Society

David Kubarek
August 18, 2020

Katelyn Kirchner, a doctoral student in materials science and engineering at Penn State, recently earned the Alfred R. Cooper Scholars Award from the American Ceramic Society.

The award recognizes undergraduate students who have demonstrated excellence in research, engineering, and/or study in glass science or technology. Kirchner will be presented with the award during the 2020 Alfred R. Cooper Session at the 2020 MS&T Technical Meeting and Exhibition being held virtually Nov. 2-6.

Kirchner, who began the doctoral program after earning her undergraduate degree from Penn State in 2020, investigates the properties of glass structures. Her computational work — under the direction of Penn State glass expert John Mauro — explores fluctuations in the structure of glass caused by thermal treatments. She’s continuing the research that helped her earn the award while she was an undergraduate.

“Katie did an amazing job during her undergraduate career and is an outstanding role model for all of our students,” Mauro said. “I am very excited at what she will accomplish next during her doctoral program.”

Kirchner was selected for her paper “Beyond the Average: A Statistical Mechanical Exploration of Topological Fluctuations in Glass-Forming Systems.”

The review committee said “her paper is a nice work on statistical mechanics of glass-forming systems” adding that “it represents a remarkable accomplishment and productivity for an undergraduate student, and that publishing four papers, three as first author, indicates she is clearly passionate about research.”

Glass structures are unique from most materials because the atomic arrangement is disordered, meaning the structure lacks a clear pattern. To quantify the structure of this disordered material, typically glass properties are measured in average values.

“Our work tries to go ‘beyond the average’ and create generalized, statistical techniques to computationally determine the full distribution of structures and properties within a glass sample, Kirchner said. “We look at the standard deviation away from the average value. This work is important because changes in the localized glass structure impact the glass’s properties and how it performs during use.”

Kirchner said she chose to stay at Penn State because she found the collaborative approach and mentorship within her research group to be a perfect fit. After earning a doctorate, her goal is to continue research while working in the industrial sector, focusing on creating new technological innovations. She’s also considering teaching.

  • Katelyn Kirchner

    Katelyn Kirchner

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 18, 2020