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FALL/WINTER 2000-01

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Faculty Profile: Wendy Crone

It work, as an assistant professor of engineering mechanics, Wendy Crone conducts cutting-edge mechanics of materials research. At play, she flies airplanes, paints watercolor still-life scenes and makes pottery as gifts for her family and friends.

New mechanics professor is at home (and work) with materials

In high school, Crone's art teachers urged her to assemble a portfolio of her work, but there was never any doubt in her mind which career path she'd choose. "It's kind of hard to have engineering as a hobby," she explains. "I enjoy art for how it relaxes me, helps me to sort my thoughts and think about things in a more creative way."
Wendy Crone

These days, the things she's thinking most about (shape-memory alloys, which can be deformed and still return to their original shape) couldn't be farther from a hobby. Collaborating with researchers in the Center for Plasma-Aided Manufacturing, she's using plasma-source ion implantation to improve the biocompatibility of the shape-memory alloy nickel titanium, often used in devices such as dental archware for braces and stents that keep veins open after balloon angioplasty.

Crone also studies ways to create new nanostructured shape-memory alloys, and she and Materials Science and Engineering Professor John Perepezko have developed a promising new mechanical alloying fabrication technique. "One of the tricks is to end up with the correct phase of the material that displays shape-memory behavior," says Crone. "That we've been able to do."

A native of Peoria, Illinois, Crone became interested in mechanics and materials behavior in high school after she attended an engineering summer camp at the University of Illinois. "When we did mechanics lab, we broke things and figured out why they broke--was it a brittle or a ductile failure--and then tried to predict when the next sample was going to break," she says. "I just thought it was a lot of fun to break things."

She returned to that university to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering mechanics and, specializing in solid mechanics, received her master's degree from Brown University. Then, looking for technical experience abroad, she accepted a Rotary scholarship and boarded a plane to Australia, where she took classes at the University of New South Wales. When she returned, she moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and became a process-quality engineer at medical-device company Guidant. As the stepping-stone back to school, Crone also worked for a year directing a program that recruited and helped retain women in science and engineering at the University of Minnesota. "And then I recruited myself and went into the PhD program," she laughs.
Nanotribology lab

Crone is one of the department's three newest mechanics faculty, who include Assistant Professor Robert Carpick (center) and Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Roderic Lakes. (25K JPG)

A PhD in mechanics in her pocket, Crone interviewed for both industry and academic positions, although she hoped she'd find what she was looking for in the latter. She joined the department in December 1998 and says she couldn't be happier with her choice. "It's a very supportive and collegial environment," she says. "I've been involved in some fantastic collaborative research projects. It's really everything I had wanted in an academic position."

In addition to teaching and researching, Crone speaks to students about a variety of engineering topics every chance she gets. She's particularly interested in encouraging women to consider engineering careers and has become involved with the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) residential program at UW-Madison. To create a supportive environment, WISE enables its participants to live, study and take core courses together. "I've really enjoyed that contact with the freshmen and sophomore women who come into the university and know they want to be a scientist or engineer and just need a little bit of support to stay in that area," she says.

Crone is so enthusiastic about her field that a little bit of her encouragement goes a long way.

 

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Date last modified: Monday, 04-Dec-2000 12:28:00 CST