Efficient Plant February 2018 - 15
feature | tribology
minor in Tribology and Lubrication Science for its engineering students.
For the students and the mechanical-engineering world, the program is
making a difference.
"If companies need an intern or to hire someone with experience right
out of college, they come to us," Jackson explained. "This program is
unique. People from industry approached us and said no other universities were teaching tribology with any kind of depth. There is a real need
in manufacturing for these skills. One student got a job with a company that makes baby carriages. They said the tribology knowledge this
student gained in our program was a key in her hiring. Any facility that
has moving parts needs to worry about friction. Every mechanism in a
manufacturing plant needs proper lubrication."
Tribology drives modern technology and is critical to improving
energy efficiency and reducing environmental waste by extending the
life of consumer products and industrial equipment. Industry demand
is high for graduates with a background in tribology, Jackson said. "Students who participate in Auburn's unique minor gain a multidisciplinary
appreciation and broad understanding of the field of tribology-especially in the subjects of engineering, chemistry, and business," he said. "It
provides a pipeline for well-prepared graduates to meet industry needs."
In addition to the required courses-Friction, Wear, and Lubrication;
Rheology; and Organic Chemistry-the Tribology and Lubrication
Science minor involves a diverse laboratory in which students participate
in actual studies for major companies, as well as projects they invent
themselves. The program also offers a full-service Design and Manufacturing Lab in which students will become nationally certified apprentice
machinists in one semester.
Minors include electives in Corrosion, Boundary, and Full-Film Lubri-
cation; Metalworking and Manufacturing Tribology; Macroscale Assembly and Applications of Nanomaterials; and Multiscale Contact Mechanics. In the lab, the students gain practical experience that manufacturing
employers consider to be the equivalent of real-world experience.
"We create all kinds of projects for the lab," Jackson said. "Sometimes
there is a new technology we want to research. Sometimes problems
come from the industry. Sometimes students come up with ideas. One
wanted to measure the surface roughness of Legos. Another group measured the wear on their cell-phone screen. One student was a trombone
player, and he did a report on the lubricants used for the instrument's
sliding mechanism. We are truly producing professionals who have
extensive expertise in the field of tribology."
"We have potential employers who ask for five to ten years of experience on their job applications," Jackson continued. "When they learn
about our program, they waive this requirement because they can see
that the practical experience is being earned through this minor."
Among the students who have benefited from the program are Collin
Phillips, Zoe Tucker, and Kaylee Wynn. Each has excelled in a variety of
ways, and each has chosen a different career path.
In May 2018, Collin Phillips will earn his Mechanical Engineering degree
with a minor in Tribology and Lubrication Science. After summer internships with Chevron (chevron.com), he landed a job with ExxonMobil (exxonmobil.com) in its Baytown, TX, location as a fixed-equipment
"I can say with absolute confidence that my tribology experience at
Auburn helped me get this job and the internships," Phillips reported.
"ExxonMobil specifically recruited me because of my three summers
working in the tribology lab at Chevron (Pascagoula, MS). ExxonMobil works closely with our [university] program to recruit people with
tribology experience. They are always looking to recruit people who
understand lubrication, and especially tribology. Even the marketing
people at companies like this need to have at least a basic understanding
of lubrication and engineering."
Phillips' physics team activities at McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, AL, and spare-time hobby tinkering with cars, fostered an interest
in engine longevity and fuel efficiency. When he arrived at Auburn in the
fall of 2014, he learned about the tribology program during Engineering
Orientation and knew it would be a fit for him.
"I am terrible at math, but I enjoy solving problems," Phillips said. "I
like the classical mechanical physics, but when I came to Auburn, I didn't
even know that tribology existed. I learned quickly that anywhere you
have two surfaces contacting in motion is where tribology comes in. You
don't have to have lubricants. You can just study surfaces. If two surfaces
don't wear away over time, then maybe there is not a problem... but this