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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

North Smithfield resident to graduate as top engineer at URI

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 30, 2002 -- When North Smithfield resident Melissa L’Etoile collects her diploma from the University of Rhode Island next month, she’ll be recognized as the University’s top mechanical engineering student.

A recipient of several scholarships and a dean’s list student every semester, L’Etoile conducted a variety of complex research projects during her stellar college career.

Working in URI’s Dynamic Photomechanics Lab during her junior year, she studied nanocomposite materials, which she describes as "materials that are mixed with very small particles so the properties of the original material can be altered. For example, with our research we produced a polyester mixed with particles of aluminia and titania to give the mixed material more strength without adding excessive weight."

L’Etoile said that materials like the ones she created and tested are used in many industries when a material needs to be consistently strengthened.

As a senior, L’Etoile conducted an independent research project to develop a new way of testing a material’s response to impact. "If a material is going to be used in an application where it is subjected to impact, it is important to know how the material will respond," she explained. "For example, you would need to know if the material would be able to recover from the strain or if it would fracture." Existing testing methods don’t give accurate results when testing soft materials like foam or rubber, so L’Etoile developed a new testing system for these materials using a crystal force transducer.

During her years at URI, L’Etoile earned membership in several national honor societies while also serving as an intern at Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing.

For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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