UNM ME PhD Student Lands Prestigious Summer Internship in France

June 26, 2012

Studying French as an undergraduate came in handy for UNM Mechanical Engineering PhD student Ben Rael, who is studying the fabrication and physical characterization of nano-composites during his summer internship in Nantes, France.

Rael was invited by a colleague of his mentor Tariq Khraishi, professor of mechanical engineering, to serve a summer internship at The National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) in Nantes, a prime European agricultural lab located on the Loire river in western France 50 km from the Atlantic coast.

“I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue my research at one of Europe’s most prestigious agricultural labs,” says Rael. “It’s also exciting to experience French culture, its amazing history and wonderful food.”

Rael’s field of research involves metal/carbon nanotube composites fabricated through powder metallurgy techniques. In France, he is learning the discrete element method which in the field of agriculture is used to study the compaction behavior of soil.

“This summer research is an excellent opportunity for Ben to work with my contact, Dr Sofiane Guessasma at INRA, as this work will be an important piece of Ben's dissertation," says Tariq Khraishi, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Financial support from the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program helped fund Rael’s internship. The LSAMP program is designed to increase the enrollment and graduation rate of historically underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).