Tyler Stannard recalls that he “was not a very good high school student” and was still not clearly focused on an educational purpose when he moved on to community college.
But he did like mathematics and technology, which gradually turned him toward engineering – and eventually to materials science and engineering.
Now his intense interest in the field, backed by good performances in studies and research after transferring to Arizona State University, has earned him a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.
The fellowship award will provide $32,000 per year for up to three years for Stannard to complete the materials science and engineering doctoral program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
He sees advances in materials as critical to the world’s progress – in areas ranging from transportation and energy to medical care and national defense.
As part of his doctoral studies, Stannard is taking a role in ASU’s research efforts to better comprehend the dynamics of materials stress, corrosion and fatigue, and to develop new metal alloys.
Working under the direction of professor Nikhilesh Chawla, he’s analyzing at the microstructural level how materials damage begins and then progresses in various applications and environmental conditions.
“It’s fun,” Stannard said. “I love using microscopes. Being able to see atoms and how they are behaving is pretty amazing.”
The goals of the research, of course, are serious: devising methods for better predicting and preventing materials failure – especially when such failure is a risk to human safety – and to find ways to create more resilient and sustainable materials.
“Tyler is a fantastic student who has the curiosity and the drive to do cutting-edge research,” Chawl said. “The NSF fellowship is a wonderful recognition of his work and accomplishments.”
Stannard developed a strong foundation for conducting advanced research through training as an undergraduate that spanned a variety of technological areas.
He assisted in lab work on applications of lithium-ion batteries, materials used in nuclear power plant operations, and radiation-monitoring devices.
A senior-year engineering design project he did with Intel Corp. provided him experience in the use of materials science and engineering in the semiconductor and electronics industry.
His achievements helped him earn support for his college education through a Science Foundation Arizona Fellowship and an ASU Engineering Dean’s Fellow award.
He also won a scholarship award from the ASM Materials Education Foundation. The foundation is associated with ASM International (founded as the American Society for Metals), the world’s largest association of metals-focused materials scientists and engineers.
Throughout much of his time in college, he has also been involved in education outreach. He has tutored young students in math and participated in community programs to promote education in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) in schools.
Stannard, a graduate of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, had to overcome financial challenges to become the first member of his family to go to college. That experience drew him to opportunities to aid youngsters in underserved communities with their education, even while he held down a job and attended college.
As he pursues an advanced degree to fulfill career aspirations to work in materials research and development for industry or national laboratories, Stannard said he plans to continue to act on his “passion for community outreach” and make teaching and mentoring a part of his life.
Joe Kullman, joe.Kullman@asu.edu
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering