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Engineering a Better World

April 4, 2013

Among her areas of study, Amber McClung, Ph.D., lists creating models for high-temperature polymer-matrix composites.

Stay with me here.

What that means, to you and me, is that she’s tested materials that are lightweight, yet can also withstand high temperatures and speeds so they can be used in fighter jets or space shuttles. This is the kind of unique expertise she brings to St. Mary’s University as Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. She helped design a Mechanical Engineering program, which will be offered in the fall.

Amber McClung, Ph.D., who teaches Mechanical Engineering, poses with equipment in her lab.

Amber McClung, Ph.D., who teaches Mechanical Engineering, poses with equipment in her lab.

“It’s a fun, flashy sub-area, but similar procedures are used on things we see every day,” said McClung, who earned her doctorate from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

She spent the past seven years in Dayton, Ohio, working at the Air Force Research Laboratory and collaborating with colleagues from the University of Dayton. She came to St. Mary’s in March 2012. McClung has a very technical expertise, but she doesn’t want students to just memorize facts; she’d rather instruct them in hands-on assignments and teach them how to learn.

“When I was a student, I really liked having projects in classes — projects where you get to make something and then test it,” she said.

McClung plans interactive labs and envisions trips to area industry locations so students can relate what they learn in the classroom to career options. She also would like to do a service-oriented project for a local business.

“One of the exciting things about St. Mary’s is that it’s a liberal arts university, and I can figure out ways to give the students projects that have more of an impact on the local community or society in general,” she said. “One of the tenets of engineering is to make society better, and hopefully I can focus on that even more here.”

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