Grizzly Pride, Army Strong

Steven Thrush, BSE ’10; MS ’12; PhD ’20, receives the 2021 Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers Edmond E. Bisson Award as a result of collaboration between OU and the U.S. Army.

A man working in a lab

For Dr. Thrush, being the U.S. Army employee and OU doctoral student meant working between laboratories.

Alumni, Awards

icon of a calendarDecember 15, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Arina Bokas

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The work and collaborations, which SECS students begin at Oakland University, don’t stop at the commencement; rather, they blossom into potent partnerships that move industry forward.

Steven Thrush, BSE ’10; MS ’12; PhD ’20, can attest to it firsthand. The recent doctorate graduate in mechanical engineering, who is currently employed as a Research Mechanical Engineer at U.S. Army DEVCOM GVSC, has been named as a recipient of the 2021 Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE) Edmond E. Bisson Award for his paper “Stability, Thermal Conductivity, Viscosity and Tribological Characterization of Zirconia Nanofluids as a Function of Nanoparticle Concentration.” The paper, published in STLE’s peer-reviewed journal, Tribology Transactions, was the first publication from Dr. Thrush’s doctoral research, conducted as a result of collaboration between OU and the U.S. Army.

This collaboration is a natural outcome of educational and research opportunities that became available to Dr. Thrush as a student at SECS. “During my undergraduate years, I enjoyed everything about OU, so it came rather naturally to me to pursue my graduate degree at SECS as well. While working on my master’s degree, I became a research assistant for Dr. Gary Barber’s OU Automotive Tribology Center, which received Congressional funds to conduct research for the U.S. Army. The U.S. Army liked my work and hired me in 2011,” recalls Dr. Thrush, who was later admitted to SECS doctorate program while still working for the U.S. Army.

Being an Army employee and OU doctoral student meant constantly working between laboratories. “While the paper is ultimately my hypothesis and body of research, all of the authors provided valuable input,” adds Dr. Thrush.

Other authors associated with the award-winning paper are U.S. Army researchers Allen Comfort and Dr. James Dusenbury as well as OU doctorate students Yuzan Xiong, Xue Han and faculty members Dr. Hongwei Qu, Dr. J. David Schall, Dr. Gary Barber and Dr. Xia Wang.

“The STLE Edmond E. Bisson Award recognizes the most outstanding contribution in the field of tribology published in Tribology Transactions,” wrote Karl Phipps, Director of Communications and Marketing for STLE, in the letter informing Dr. Thrush of his award. The criteria for the award include significant research contribution that supports STLE mission of advancing “the science of tribology and the practice of lubrication engineering in order to foster innovation, improve the performance of equipment and products, conserve resources and protect the environment.”

Dr. Thrush’s research, which focused on anti-wear additives, certainly meets the high expectation.

“Nanoparticles of various types, suspended in lubricants, have shown beneficial performance in terms of lower friction and wear of sliding components, but have not proved to be stable for any significant length of time,” explains Dr. Gary Barber, professor of mechanical engineering and Dr. Thrush’s dissertation advisor. “Dr. Thrush's research has shown that zirconia nanoparticles can be stable and provide long-term benefits in terms of lower friction and wear to engines and other types of machinery, bringing this technology closer to the commercialization stage.”

To the researcher, however, the significance of the award is not only in well-deserved recognition of his own work, but also in the light that it shines on the collaboration between the two entities that enabled it.

“Edmund E. Bisson was a world-renowned NASA tribologist during the Space Race. To win an award named after him from one of the largest tribology societies is nothing short of surreal!” Dr. Thrush says. “Since the award was established in 1992, this is the first time either Oakland University or the U.S. Army has ever won this award, and I am proud to win it representing both. I could not have imagined a better way to celebrate this unique collaboration – Grizzly Pride, Army Strong!”

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