For his research with metallic foam, mechanical engineering undergraduate Jayden Plumb of Salt Lake Valley is the recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for the College of Engineering from the U’s Office of Undergraduate Research. Plumb is advised by mechanical engineering assistant professor Ashley Spear and is a member of the Multiscale Mechanics & Materials Laboratory.

The Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award honors a student from 17 of the university’s colleges. The awards are based on commitment to developing research skills and knowledge, evidence of independent and critical thinking, active participation in research-related activities on campus, and positive contributions to the research culture of the department, college, and university.

“Jayden has demonstrated a remarkable level of independent and critical thinking that far exceeds his peers,” Spear wrote in a nomination letter. “Jayden’s research experience at the University of Utah has positioned him to be a successful graduate student researcher in any top program.”

Wait – metallic foam – undergraduate? Yes, you heard that right, metallic foam being researched by an undergrad! It’s a modern type of material that has engineers pretty excited. The foam’s lightweight, porous structure and ability to absorb a significant amount of energy during impact lead to a lot of possible applications. For example, open-cell metallic foams can be used as shrouds on aerospace vehicles to help mitigate damage from micrometeorites, as lightweight batteries and heat sinks that can simultaneously carry loads, and as biomedical implants that can seamlessly integrate with new biological tissue.

“My work as an undergraduate researcher,” said Plumb, “has been to experimentally characterize the three-dimensional properties of open-cell aluminum foam. By learning about the characteristics of this material, we hope to gain a better understanding of how it will perform in any given scenario. Understanding the behavior of the foam, especially across different length scales, will allow us to manufacture and design it to maximize performance and safety.” As part of his research, Plumb has spent time at Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

On a personal note, Plumb adds, “I first became interested in engineering in middle school, because I enjoyed math and physics as well as building things with my hands. Today, I have been drawn towards the challenging and exciting problems in the world of research. It’s a research bug that I hope to continue. After I receive my Bachelor’s degree from the U, I plan to pursue my Ph.D. and eventually become a professor in mechanical engineering.”

The award will be given out April 3 during a luncheon at the A. Ray Olpin Student Union. Plumb’s research is funded by both the U Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and by the National Science Foundation (DMREF-1629660). To learn more about Plumb and his research visit the Multiscale Mechanics & Materials Laboratory.