A native of India, Srivastava came to Rensselaer to pursue a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering. She expects to earn her Ph.D. in spring 2011.
Zonta International works to advance the status of women worldwide. The organization’s Amelia Earhart Fellowship was established in 1938 to honor the famed pilot and Zonta member. The Earhart fellowship is awarded to women who have outstanding academic credentials and are engaged in doctoral research in aerospace-related science or engineering.
Srivastava is part of a Rensselaer research team that is experimenting with introducing new materials into epoxy composites to increase their fatigue resistance. Today’s composites typically consist of epoxy that is reinforced by traditional fibers, such as carbon and fiberglass. The resulting material is strong and extremely lightweight but brittle.
Composites are increasingly used in aircraft because lighter planes consume less fuel. Fatigue has been a problem, however, due to the composites’ brittle nature.
“Composites have shown tremendous promise, but we still require a much better ability to predict failure before they can be used safely in aerospace applications,” Srivastava said. “That’s something I’d like to help make possible.”
Under the direction of Professor Nikhil Koratkar of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, Srivastava and the Rensselaer team have been incorporating nanoscale fillers, including graphene, into the epoxy to increase its resistance to fracture.
“She has found that, by incorporating nanoparticles at very low weight fractions, she can help prevent micro-cracks from initiating and spreading,” Koratkar said. “This is a huge safety problem with existing composites. Cracks can form and propagate, which eventually leads to failure.”
Koratkar, who serves as Srivastava’s research adviser, was one of three professors to recommend her for the Earhart fellowship. Other recommendations came from Rahmi Ozisik, associate professor of materials science and engineering, and from Srivastava’s academic adviser, Linda Schadler, professor of materials science and engineering and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Engineering.
Schadler cited the volume and quality of Srivastava’s work, her leadership potential, strong motivation, and demonstrated research success. “She will be a leader in the use of new materials in engineering applications,” Schadler said.
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