Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the blank stares I get when I tell people I’m a ceramic engineer. “Yes”, I say, “there is a degree for that.”
I usually try to explain that I was educated as a high-temperature inorganic chemist. If their eyes are still uncomprehending, I resort to: “look, someone has to make toilet bowls.”
Those are the moments when I wish I had majored in mechanical engineering.
My co-founder, Bryan, used to avoid the blank looks by saying “I make ceramic tile.” Now he avoids them with “I do lots of things.” Bryan is smarter than I am.
When people don’t understand what it is you do, it is hard for them to get excited about it. After all, Ian Fleming didn’t write about Bond, James Bond, ceramic engineer!
However, the excitement factor around ceramics has been increasing over the past few years. It certainly has for me.
A few years ago, I attended the American Ceramic Society’s annual Ceramic Leadership Summit. There I joined a presentation by Dr. Steve Jung, Senior R&D Engineer at MO-SCI Corporation, on “Bio-Engineering Soft Tissue with Ceramics.”
Let me tell you, the presentation was a lot more exciting than its title.
Dr. Jung described how specially formulated glass fibers could be placed in large, poorly healing wounds (think diabetic ulcers) and the glass will stimulate soft tissue growth and wound healing. The glass eventually dissolves harmlessly into the body, meaning that frequent dressing changes and wound disturbance is not required.
The pictures of the glass effect were so dramatic - both in how effect it was and the speed at which the wounds healed - that I immediately got on the phone to Bryan and shouted “you won’t believe what these guys at MO-SCI are doing! It’s just fantastic!”
What I especially love about those amazing results is that the invention came from ceramic engineers and glass scientists. That the founder of the company, Dr. Delbert Day, was one of my university professors feels pretty good, too.
Dr. Day and the MO-SCI team should be very proud of the company’s achievements. In the years since, they have turned their inventions into a major business helping people all over the world to heal.
I came to realize that the things I saw at the Leadership Summit are happening all over the United States, every day. Smart people, driven by a passion for their trade, are inventing life-altering materials and processes all the time.
I take a great deal of pride in knowing that these people are often drawn from the “unexciting” professions about which most of us know little.
Bond, James Bond, ceramic engineer. Hmmmm. That has a ring to it.
Photo credit: Wall Street Journal