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KU Senior Wins Award at American Indian Science and Engineering Society Conference

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A senior at the University of Kansas School of Engineering received recognition from a national organization that strives to increase the representation of American Indians in engineering and science.

Len Edward Necefer, a mechanical engineering major of Navajo descent from Lawrence, Kan., and La Puebla, N.M., won second place in an undergraduate oral research presentation competition Nov. 12 at the American Indian Science and Engineering Society National Conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

Necefer’s presentation, titled “Parameter Study for Multi-scale Modeling of Ceramic Matrix Composites,” focused on research on computer modeling of ceramics he conducted during a summer internship at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The competition required students to give a presentation on research done during an internship or at a university.

And although some engineers have trouble communicating complex concepts in a way that non-engineers fully understand, Necefer said he’s developed strategies to help himself.

“I try to read a lot, and I think that keeps me articulate,” Necefer said. “It’s a lot easier for me to talk in front of groups. On top of engineering, I do a lot of reading, I try to talk to people that aren’t in my major, like my parents and others, and explain what I’m doing. The hardest part is to explain it in terms that are understandable. It doesn’t matter how awesome your research is, if no one can understand it, what’s the point?”

The competitors were evaluated by a panel of five judges with varied science and engineering backgrounds, which created additional challenges.

“You had to really gear your presentation to suit these different audiences and have it still make sense,” Necefer said.

Necefer’s research focused on generating computer models that show how and when ceramics crack and shatter. The goal is to learn more about how NASA can make better parts for jet engines and space vehicles.

“Future applications will use this material as the leading edge of a space re-entry vehicle, because these things can go up to 4,000 to 5,000 degrees Celsius,” Necefer said. “The other application would be using these materials in jet turbines. At the blades inside the turbine, where there’s the hot section of the turbine, they can run higher temperatures and get better efficiency.”

Necefer, who is vice president of KU’s AISES chapter, earned a $300 award for taking second place in the competition. When his undergraduate days come to an end next spring, he’s planning to attend graduate school or join the Peace Corps.

“We are very proud of Len’s accomplishments,” said Florence Boldridge, director of Diversity and Women’s Programs at the KU School of Engineering. “He’s articulate and highly intelligent and this speaks to his dedication. It also demonstrates the quality of education he receives at the university.”

Necefer is the son of Edward Necefer of Lawrence and Maggie George of La Puebla, N.M.

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