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Penumadu, Schmitz, Heaslip Make Appearances on Science Minute with Hallerin Hilton Hill

Local radio icon Hallerin Hilton Hill hosts a UT-focused podcast, Science Minute, that delves into some of the world-changing research being done across the university.

Dayakar Penumadu
Dayakar Penumadu

Recently, Hill had a trio of separate interviews with Dayakar Penumadu, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Fred N. Peebles Professor and Chair of Excellence at the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing; Professor Tony Schmitz, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering; and Kevin Heaslip, director of the Center for Transportation Research (CTR).

Penumadu talked about his journey through engineering—how he built the career he has had—and emphasized the importance of using engineering to lead to improve communities and society.

As part of that discussion, Penumadu talked about how he led a team in building a bridge from composite materials that was put into real-world use in Morgan County, saving money and time while keeping people from having to drive miles out of their way. It is an approach that could be easily repeated and deployed in rural areas across the country. 

He also mentioned the importance of IACMI—The Composites Institute, which plays an enormous role in developing new materials and fostering research and innovation.

Tony Schmitz
Tony Schmitz

For Schmitz, the focus was on workforce development and tackling the need to boost training related to advanced manufacturing. He said that his journey began while growing up in Kansas, where massive machinery related to farming was commonplace and piqued his interest in science and engineering.

Schmitz explained the differences in types of machining, where advanced manufacturing has been and where it is headed, and how things like energy use and computers have impacted the field.

He also talked about some of the programs and organizations he is involved in that are devoted to restoring America’s place as a leading manufacturer, such as America’s Cutting Edge, and the Southeastern Advanced Machine Tools Network, which are both helping to fill a vital need for the country when it comes to training the workforce of tomorrow.

They finished by talking about the opportunities that exist in the region around Knoxville and what comes next in terms of materials and manufacturing.

Kevin Heaslip
Kevin Heaslip

Heaslip’s episode began with an overview of what the CTR is and does, a brief look ahead as to what is coming for the future of mobility, and how growing up near I-95 in Boston inspired him to get into the field of transportation.

The conversation then turned to how the United States has a massively extensive system of roads that have served the country well, but that shifting patterns of car ownership, the impact of artificial intelligence on driving, and the movement away from fossil fueled-vehicles will change the relationship people have with transportation.

Heaslip and Hill spent a good portion of the conversation focused on automated and connected vehicles, discussing how people see it versus what the realities and limitations are. Infrastructure was also brought up as a key area that must change if the very nature of transportation is to change.

Finally, Hill asked Heaslip what excites him, to which the CTR director said it is the opportunity for the state of Tennessee to take leadership in transportation innovation, with the strengths of UT, Vanderbilt University, the University of Memphis, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory positioned to help move things along.  

Heaslip concluded by talking about how the state having large urban areas but also having swaths of rural counties makes it ideal to bring about change that benefits all, and about how Tennessee being criss-crossed by several freight-important interstates makes it an ideal candidate to help the nation’s transportation improve.  

Hill has been in radio for more than 20 years, and is a Grammy-nominated songwriter who has worked with Whitney Houston, among others. He currently hosts a weekday radio show from 5:30-10 am on News Talk 98.7 and the television show Anything is Possible on WBIR channel 10 on Sundays at noon.