From left to right: aerospace engineering juniors Christopher Clark, Grace Johnson and Lane McDermott

From left to right: aerospace engineering juniors Christopher Clark, Grace Johnson and Lane McDermott


Three University of Maryland (UMD) aerospace engineering juniors were awarded Society for the Advancement of Material Process Engineering (SAMPE) Student Leadership Experience Awards: Christopher Clark, Grace Johnson and Lane McDermott.

This national award covers all travel and registration costs for selected students to attend the SAMPE Conference and Exhibition for a week of networking with peers and professionals, learning about career opportunities in the aerospace materials and process engineering industry, and meeting potential future employers.

All three students are part of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Honors Program and work with Professor Norm Wereley in his Composites Research Laboratory (CORE).

Enthusiastic for all things aerospace, Clark transferred to UMD from Harford Community to pursue his path in aerospace engineering, and through his work in Wereley’s lab became involved in the UMD chapter of SAMPE.

“Because my research involves composite actuators and additive manufacturing, I made it a goal to build a close relationship with the SAMPE community,” explained Clark. “Being a member contributes to my growth as an engineer and enables me to make meaningful contributions to the field of aerospace.”

He is currently working on developing pneumatic artificial muscle (PAM) actuators for individual blade control of trailing edge flaps on helicopter rotor blades for which the specific actuation force is maximized. He is achieving this by fabricating what are typically metallic components, out of plastic using 3D printing. Post graduation, he aims to pursue his master’s degree before establishing a career in the aerospace industry.

Johnson is on the space track within aerospace engineering with the goal of pursuing her master’s degree. Currently, her research in the CORE focuses on tubular honeycomb structures for energy-absorption and crashworthiness applications. More specifically, she is exploring the addition of buckling initiators within these structures, and how they can additively manufacture tubular honeycomb structures to make them more efficient at absorbing energy in impact and crash scenarios.

Working closely with graduate student, and UMD SAMPE Chapter President, Colleen Murray, Johnson said that both Murray and Wereley introduced her to the opportunities that SAMPE provides. She became an active member of both the student and local chapters, adding, “I look forward to participating and contributing to SAMPE on a national level.”

McDermott didn’t arrive at UMD via the usual route. After completing his first B.S. at Marshal University in 2015 and spending several years working in the private sector, he found himself at a decision point that led him to return to school to pursue aerospace engineering. Despite a brief setback created by COVID-19, McDermott completed his preliminary course work at a local community college and transferred to Maryland last summer to pursue aerospace engineering.

He immediately began working in the CORE Lab where he is also developing circular tubular arrays, similar to the work Johnson is performing, but instead, each tube is a convex or concave axisymmetric tubes also configured in an array similar to honeycomb structures. These arrays are designed to smoothly collapse under high load, to help absorb the energy of a high sink rate or crash landing.

“My post-graduation goals are to work in the field of aircraft or rotorcraft research and design, and then hopefully, to pursue a master’s degree in a related field,” said McDermott.

The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE®) is a global professional member society that provides enhanced educational opportunities by delivering information on new and advanced materials and processing technology.

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March 26, 2024

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