By Mike Haen
About 100 years ago, Adam Creuziger’s great-grandfather Charles M. Creuziger trained at Camp Randall as an auto mechanic and prepared for his military service in World War I. With his grandmother Dorothy Saunders (’44), and grandfather Charles E. Creuziger (’47) having also attended Madison, Adam continued in the family’s Badger tradition when he pursued an M.S. and a PhD in Engineering Mechanics at UW–Madison, after receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota in 2002.
Since his graduation in 2008, Adam has worked as a Materials Research Engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Recently, Adam’s work was recognized by the White House. He was awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). He is one of 105 individuals receiving a PECASE, which is awarded to early career researchers for “their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service.”
At NIST, much of Adam’s research centers on automobile technology. He measures and analyses materials being used in lightweight vehicles. His work contributes to improvements in fuel efficiency and crash safety. “What I really enjoy about my work is that I can deeply investigate a measurement problem and get to the heart of it,” Adam explains. He spends much of his time developing new testing and measurement methods for particular alloys such as aluminum, magnesium, and steel, which are used for the hundreds of sheet metal parts that make up a car frame. With these tests and methods, researchers like Adam analyze how the alloys can become deformed throughout a vehicle’s creation and use. Accurate tests that are representative of the multiaxial or high rate deformations expected in service are essential for creating safe automobiles, and saving money in production. In his own words, Adam explains that, “This work is important because certain material models need to be corrected, and testing the materials is where that correction begins.”
Throughout his time at Madison, Adam’s growth as a researcher was guided by mentors who still impact his work today. For example, from 2002-2008, Adam worked as a graduate research assistant in the Department of Engineering Physics, under Professor Wendy Crone. In this position, he performed experimental tests to study how shape-memory materials, or alloys, failed. A shape-memory alloy “remembers” its original shape after being heated, by undergoing a structural change at the atomic level. Late in his graduate studies, another member of Professor Crone’s research group, Gordon Shaw advised him to apply for a fellowship at the National Research Council (NRC) Research Associate program. Adam then presented his research in Maryland at NIST. On his trip, he met Timothy Foecke, Founder and Director of the NIST Center for Automotive Lightweighting.
Ultimately, Adam’s innovative research and networking led to his current career path. In fact, he recommends that graduate students take a few essential steps in their career pursuits. “Students should understand the importance of networking early on. Make business cards and ask to job shadow at companies you may be interested in. Most companies and agencies will be happy to bring in a student for an hour, half day, or full day and show you what their work is all about.”
Reflecting on his time at Madison, Adam added that his mentors inspire him to serve as a mentor and teacher for others. While a PhD student, he pursued a Delta Certificate in Research, Teaching, and Learning and also worked as a coach for the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.
“In my time at Madison, I learned how my work as a researcher could be translated to the teaching and mentoring of others,” he noted. He insists that “skills used as an engineer, forming a hypothesis, devising a test, analyzing the results and sharing the results with others, do not need to be tossed out simply because you’re leading a classroom or mentoring.”
His passion for research and mentoring makes Adam a standout engineer and Badger alum.