Need help with engineering research? So did David.

Student researcher: David Kemmenoe Ph.D. ’21, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (he/him/his)

Librarian: Jill Powell, Engineering Library

Stand-out resources: Navigating Cornell library resources (Interlibrary Loan, book purchase requests, scientific databases) and one-on-one research help (web search training)

What’s your area of interest? 

I am interested in problems with 3-dimensional representations that I can “put my hands on” even if it’s only in my mind’s eye. I eventually landed on the field of solid mechanics, which answers the questions of why, when, and how physical objects change shape or fracture. 

How has the library helped you?

My dissertation was on the strength of braze joints. With traditional bulk materials, we have a long history and a suite of mechanical tests to characterize them, but braze joints aren’t traditional bulk materials. Brazed joints are very thin (30-100 micrometers in thickness) with high surface-area-to-volume ratios. Combine this with the high temperatures required for brazing (>1000°C in my work) and this results in significant diffusional exchange between the base metal and the brazing filler metal (final braze composition is part brazing filler metal, part base metal). Thus, we must test the final braze joint, in its nearly 2D geometric configuration, rather than the bulk brazing filler metal that we put into the joint. The results from these tests end up being very complicated and difficult to interpret. 

The American Welding Society governs brazing in the U.S. and has both a Brazing Handbook and an industry standard about testing the strength of brazed joints. Jill made me aware of the fact that I could request that the library purchase these resources for their collection. I had these resources in my possession on loan from the library for over half of my time at Cornell. Jill also helped me to gain access to certain papers through Interlibrary Loan that helped me to build a more complete understanding of my problem piece by piece. Finally, when I went to do some Finite Element Analysis simulations of the stress and strain states of these joints, I went to Jill for help with finding appropriate physical property data to use as inputs into my simulations. She knew what databases to look in first and what organizations would have the highest quality data. 

Any advice for people who are hesitant about reaching out to the library?

Cornell has so many resources for students that it is hard to know what all is available—especially when you are starting out as a new Ph.D. student. The relationship I developed with Jill meant I had someone who I could easily reach out to for help and just ask, “Is there a Cornell resource for XYZ?” Jill almost always had an answer that helped me move my research forward. Cornell’s librarians connect students with the right resources. They are a huge asset which I will sorely miss as I move on from Cornell. Don’t waste your time reinventing the wheel when your Cornell librarian is so close at hand and easy to work with.