There’s Ceramics… and Then There’s Ceramics

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the blank stares I get when I tell people I’m a ceramic engineer. “Yes”, I say, “there is a degree for that.” I usually have to go on to explain that essentially I was educated to be a high-temperature inorganic chemist. If the eyes are still uncomprehending I resort to: “look-someone has to make toilet bowls.” These are the moments I wish I had majored in mechanical engineering.

Bryan used to avoid the blank looks by simply saying, “I make ceramic tile.” Now he avoids them by with, “I do lots of things.”

Bryan is smarter than I am.

It’s a given that if one doesn’t understand what people do it is hard for them to get excited about those who do it. Ian Fleming didn’t write about Bond, ceramic engineer James Bond, after all. The excitement factor may be about to increase. It surely has for me.

I was recently in Baltimore for the American Ceramic Society’s annual Ceramic Leadership Summit and attended a presentation by Dr. Steve Jung, Senior R&D Engineer at MO-SCI Corporation. The title of the presentation was “Bio-Engineering Soft Tissue with Ceramics.” Let me tell you, the presentation was a lot more exciting than the unassuming title.

Dr. Jung described how specifically formulated glass fibers can be placed in large, poorly healing wounds (think diabetic ulcers) and the glass actually stimulates soft tissue growth and wound healing. The glass dissolves harmlessly into the body such that frequent dressing changes and wound disturbance is not required. The pictures of the glass effect were so dramatic in both their positive effect and in the speed at which the wounds healed that I immediately got on the phone to Bryan and shouted “you won’t believe what these guys at MO-SCI are doing!  It’s just fantastic!” See the video here.

One of the best things for me about the amazing results is that the invention came from ceramic engineers and glass scientists. That the founder of the company, Dr. Delbert Day, was one of my professors doesn’t make me feel too badly either. He and MO-SCI president Ted Day should be very proud of the company’s achievements.Later as I made the long trip home to Montana I came to realize that the kind of thing I had seen in Baltimore is happening all over this country each and every day.

Smart people with passion are inventing life-altering materials and processes all over this country. And I take a great deal of comfort from knowing that these people are often from the “unexciting” professions about which most of us know little. Bond. Ceramic engineer, James Bond. Hmmmm. That has a ring to it.

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