Position: Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Canterbury University and Director of the Advanced Energy and Material Systems Lab.
Field: Energy and materials engineering.
Professor Susan Krumdieck is a mechanical engineer who lectures and researches at Canterbury University where she is also Director of the Advanced Energy and Material Systems Lab.
A process she invented is used to develop thin layer ceramic materials. This has many potential applications including sustainable energy systems, high-durability parts and perhaps even surfaces for the next generation of hypersonic vehicles. Her main passion is how to solve challenges for renewable energy and sustainable living.
Susan grew up in a Colorado town with a population of just 800 people, 8 hours drive from any major city. She had a year 7 maths teacher who told her that maths is just puzzles. She figured out that, if she was relaxed and not freaking out about maths being hard or that girls were not good at maths, it was actually quite easy.
Susan always just loved science – finding out about nature and how things worked. There weren’t computer games, the internet, cell phones or movie videos when she was in school. She played sports, did chores in the family food gardens and spent a lot of time reading and playing music. “I think young people have a serious challenge today with distractions that I didn’t have,” Susan says.
During high school, Susan became concerned with how pollution and development was destroying the environment. She decided to go to university to become a mechanical engineer so she could study how to develop materials and systems for renewable energy. Susan was always focused on her studies and never had an attitude of leaving things till the last minute or saying “I can’t be bothered”. She spent a lot of time helping her friends with their homework and helping them understand challenging new ideas. This led her to consider a career as a lecturer at university.
The scientific challenge of making and testing materials for hypersonic vehicles is great, but I think an even greater challenge for society is to figure out how to transition to sustainable energy use.
Susan’s high achievement led to a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at Arizona State University in energy systems engineering. After that, she completed her PhD at the University of Colorado. During this time, Susan invented a process called pulsed pressure chemical vapour deposition (PPCVD) to solve the problem of how to deposit high-tech ceramic coatings on irregular shaped metal parts.
For the past dozen or so years, Susan has been working with university students and colleagues in several different fields to understand the way her process works so they can then engineer the manufacturing processes to use it. Now, they are developing ceramic coating layers for bone replacement implants, solid oxide fuel cells, sensors, solar cells, turbo-machines and hypersonic vehicles.
Susan enjoys solving really hard problems. She works on both energy and materials, and in many ways, they go together. She hopes to continue working on sustainable energy in New Zealand and perhaps even be part of the redevelopment of Christchurch as a sustainable city.
This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2018.