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Engineering Impact Report

research-cPhoto: Robert Wilkens, current associate dean for research and innovation and longtime faculty member wants new faculty members to understand the resources available to them at UDRI. 

Strengthening Research Bonds

Ten years ago, before the University of Dayton purchased the former NCR headquarters adjacent to campus, the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and School of Engineering were co-located in Kettering Labs.

Bob Wilkens, associate dean for research and innovation, has fond memories of the comradery and collaboration that came with faculty being in proximity to like-minded researchers.

“You would meet UDRI folks in the hallway and go to lunch with them. You could ask someone on your floor who at UDRI has expertise in a certain area and then go ask them questions,” Wilkens said. “Our idea was to place faculty at UDRI for the summer, so they would be able to make the same connections senior faculty did.”

The resulting UD/UDRI Research Fellowship program matches School of Engineering faculty and UDRI researchers, with the goal of expanding areas of research that are fundable by outside parties. Faculty receive summer funding while learning more about UDRI’s research, capabilities and personnel. UDRI researchers gain access to highly skilled faculty partners.

The Fellowship, now in its third summer, is funded by the School with support from the provost’s office. The program has led to joint proposals between UD and UDRI as well as new areas of research.

Amy Neidhard-Doll, a biomedical engineer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was the perfect partner for Dathan Erdahl, a research engineer in the Structural Integrity Division.

Erdahl’s group normally specializes in additive manufacturing of parts for military applications. They have built an open architecture 3-D printing platform that allows researchers to customize the printer’s use of materials and monitor printing progress using a variety of sophisticated sensors.

"UDRI's expertise and state-of-the-art printing platform for metals lend themselves perfectly to expanding into biomedical research," Neidhard-Doll said. "They were interested in partnering with the School of Engineering to bring someone with a biomedical background into the team."

Neidhard-Doll’s work focuses on creating customized medical devices — like hip implants — printed using the patient’s own digital images as a blueprint.

Neidhard-Doll and Erdahl are seeking FDA approval of their custom printer, which is required before clinical trials of medical devices will be allowed. They are also testing using biocompatible metals such as titanium. Future research will focus on optimizing the manufacturing process for commercial applications to bring this technology to market.

Since its move to new space, UDRI has experienced exponential growth. Over the past three years, UDRI has grown by a third — from $100 million in sponsored engineering research to $150 million in 2018. UDRI excels in advanced materials, aerospace technologies, structural physics, energy and sensors, among other engineering specialties.

"The response from faculty, research scientists and upper administration at the University has all been very positive," Wilkens said. "We have more requests from UDRI than we have funding to fill them, so the program has expanded with the College of Arts and Sciences and Office for Research now funding additional positions."

In the end, it was about making connections, but also in expanding areas of research in ways we couldn’t before.


School of Engineering

Kettering Laboratories
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0254