ASTM Members on the Use of Standards in Business and Academia
A Professor’s Insights
Q. At what university and in what department do you teach?
A. I’m a faculty member at the University of WisconsinMadison where I teach in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Q. What is the nature of the courses you teach?
A. I teach courses in the general areas of structural design and analysis, and engineering/construction materials.
Q. When did you join ASTM International? In which committees are you active? Are you a committee officer?
A. I’ve been involved with ASTM for almost 20 years. During that time I have been an active member of ASTM Committee D07 on Wood but have also had some interest in the activities of Committees E05 on Fire Standards and E06 on Performance of Buildings. I was recently elected the chair of D07.
Q. What are some advantages of your participation in standards development?
A. Standards development provides a landscape and a language for discussing technical matters with other engineers from the public and private sector. The standards development process provides a forum where existing knowledge is harnessed and where knowledge gaps are clearly defined. As an educator and researcher, the insight gained through standards development has become very useful.
Q. Do you incorporate standards, ASTM or otherwise, into your curriculum? If so, what types? How are they implemented (case studies, research, other)? What is the value of doing so?
A. I incorporate standards both in teaching structural design and teaching construction materials. Implementing standards in the structural design classroom is largely a matter of awareness and exposing students to the language of the profession. In teaching materials of construction, standards form a core part of laboratory exercises and provide a context for discussing material performance. It is difficult to discuss material performance without putting it in the frame of reference provided by standard testing procedures. Standards provide an organized and meaningful way to discuss complex technical issues. Standards facilitate teaching student engineers how to structure and organize complex technical problems in useful and practical ways.
Gaps in knowledge about materials and construction products often become readily apparent in the standards development process. Identifying these gaps has helped shape and target my own research proposals; research I have completed has worked its way back into codes and standards. Codes and standards provide one of the best opportunities for implementing academic research on construction materials.
Q. Have you worked in industry, either past or currently? If so, in what capacity? What role did standards play in this experience?
A. I have worked in industry on several short-term assignments related to construction materials in the course of my career. While the bulk of my career has been in academia, these short assignments have given me a perspective of the importance of standards and how they are used from the non-academic side.
Q. Have you been involved in research, either past or presently? If so, in what capacity? What role did standards play in this research?
A. Yes, I have an active research program. Again, knowledge gaps become clearly defined in the standards development process. These gaps create the basis for research ideas and pursuing research. I have had completed research find its way back into new or revised standards. It is particularly gratifying when a researcher can close that loop because it means research is seeing near-term implementation.
Q. What advantages do you see for students to have an understanding of standards and their development?
A. Standards form a technical language that is essential for new engineers to understand. Progressing for the first time into the work of engineering is much easier if you understand the language and landscape of the technical standards that shape your industry.
Q. In your view, should a familiarity with standards be required for graduate-level education, particularly in engineering, law and business disciplines? Would this assist in gaining professional success?
A. I cannot speak about the law and business disciplines, but certainly, a familiarity with standards just makes common sense in the industry and engineering professions in which I interact. I really cannot imagine an education that ignores standards as being even close to complete. //
A Standards Setter’s Perspective
Q. Who is your current employer and what is your current position?
A. I am a distinguished research staff member in the Metals and Ceramics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s research and development laboratories.
Q. Where did you obtain your undergraduate/graduate degree(s) and in what fields?
A. My undergraduate degree is in nuclear engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara, followed by a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of WisconsinMadison. I subsequently worked for General Electric before returning to UCSB where I earned my Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
Q. When and why did you become involved in ASTM International?
A. My first contact with ASTM was attending the 11th International Symposium on the Effects of Radiation on Materials in 1982. I became involved in ASTM Committee E10 on Nuclear Technology and Applications around 1986 when a colleague at ORNL asked me to participate in Subcommittee E10.08 on Procedures for Neutron Radiation Damage Simulation.
Q. In which committees are you active? Are you a committee officer; if so, what group or groups?
A. My primary committee affiliation is with E10, although I also participate in Committee C26 on Nuclear Fuel Cycle. Since about 1990 I have been the chairman of Subcommittee E10.08. My other primary technical involvement has been in Subcommittee E10.02 on Behavior and Use of Nuclear Structural Materials. I am currently serving as the chairman of Committee E10, and along the way I have also served as E10 secretary and vice-chairman. On the administrative side, I was a member and officer of the ASTM Committee on Publications for about nine years, and was elected to the ASTM board of directors for a three-year term in 2004.
Q. How do you apply ASTM standards in your work?
A. Because my current research involves primarily computational modeling and simulation, it does not involve direct application of any ASTM standards per se. However, the mechanical property data we are trying to simulate or predict is typically generated in compliance with ASTM standards such as Test Methods E 8 and E 23 from Committee E 28 on Mechanical Testing, and E 384 from Committee E04 on Metallography. A broad range of E 10-developed standards applies to the irradiation-specific aspects of mechanical testing and characterization of the irradiation environments that materials are exposed to.
Q. Apart from using standards, are there advantages to participating in standards development?
A. Participating in the standards development process provides a good opportunity to broaden one’s professional knowledge base while learning how to work effectively as the member of a team. We all tend to be highly specialized in our jobs, but working on a standard often involves close interaction with folks from somewhat different disciplines and whose approach to a particular problem may be quite different from our own. Working through the ASTM consensus process with a diverse group of people can be an education in itself. The Biblical simile “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17) is often apropos.
Q. What are some of your favorite aspects of your job?
A. The most satisfying things fall into two categories. The first is technical. I have the opportunity to work in a very challenging environment, with access to some of the best test equipment, irradiation facilities, and computers available today. As a result, I can be involved in science at the growing edge as well as in the development of relevant energy technology. The second is more social. Because the development of science has become more and more an international affair, I have been able to enjoy developing working relationships and friendships with colleagues from countries around the world. Many of these relationships have been established in the context of E10 committee work and symposia.
Q. Are there advantages that you can identify that result from having an understanding of standards?
A. Standards play a vital role in the development of raw data that supports the evolution of both fundamental and engineering science. In the commercial world, they facilitate domestic business-to-business transactions, and international commerce. As a result, understanding how standards are developed and used can help provide almost anyone a stronger basis for career choices and subsequent career development.
Q. Are there any words of wisdom that you can offer to professionals starting out in your field?
A. I am not sure I have many words of wisdom. However, I would advise any young scientist or engineer to look for opportunities for professional involvement outside their employment and beyond the immediate needs of their employer. ASTM International provides a good venue for this involvement, and perusing the ASTM Web site provides a good idea of the range of interests represented within the technical committees. //