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Research Highlight: Claudia Rawn

Dr. Claudia RawnClaudia Rawn’s passion for her profession inspires her to focus not only on teaching but mentoring students and helping them find a passion of their own for engineering. Dr. Rawn, who holds a Joint Faculty position between UT and ORNL, is an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering as well as Director of the Center for Materials Processing. Rawn also helps to sponsor the annual Materials Camp, a summer program for high school students interested in the field. In 2011, Rawn and her research team won an NSF award for the Research and Instructional Strategies for Engineering Retention (RISER) program. Rawn’s team was selected for its work with female and diverse students. The RISER program supports the goal of NSF’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP)—to recruit and retain students in STEM fields.

Rawn and her team looked at groups in the college that had lower retention rates and identified two “at risk” populations: freshmen who do not qualify to begin the Engineering Fundamentals (EF) series in their fall semester due to ACT math scores less than 28 (keep in mind that university-wide the average ACT score is a 27) so these are pretty high caliber students) and women in the honors program. The RISER program focuses on retaining women in the honors program by involving them in undergraduate research with mentoring faculty. By providing these students with increased opportunities to interact with TCE faculty and other engineering students, Rawn and her team are helping to build a social community for these students. Thus far, all involved, both mentors and students, have been very pleased with the program and its results.

Rawn’s research interests include investigations of crystal structures, phase transitions, and thermophysical properties of materials using in-situ x-ray and neutron diffraction.  She received her B.Sc. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Materials Engineering in 1986, her MSc from George Mason University in Chemistry in 1991, and her PhD from the University of Arizona in Materials Science and Engineering in 1995.