Jennifer Carter appointed SCSAM faculty director

Jennifer Carter

The Swagelok Center for the Surface Analysis of Materials (SCSAM), Case Western Reserve University’s core facility providing instrumentation for advanced characterization and research of materials, is under new direction. Jennifer Carter, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was named the new faculty director of the center effective January 1. Carter takes the reins from Department Chair Frank Ernst, who has led the center since 2016.

Carter, whose research group focuses on developing a physical understanding of processing-structure-property relationships of crystalline, inorganic materials, knows first-hand the benefits of having access to SCSAM—sharing that SCSAM has been a “central contributor” to her research success during her time at CWRU. In addition to CWRU students and researchers, outside researchers from local industry, such as Lubrizol, Energizer and Lincoln Electric, and labs, from locations including NASA, frequently come to SCSAM to do research with the instruments.

As faculty director of SCSAM, Carter’s main goal is to establish SCSAM as a hub for materials research at CWRU. “I look forward most to getting to talk with faculty and student researchers about how they can utilize the instruments and expertise that the center has to provide, to make it possible for them to explore their own interesting science questions,” she said. “This is a unique opportunity for me to get to impact the professional development of student researchers in a larger capacity than I could support with my own research endeavors.”

In addition to Carter, the SCSAM is staffed by three skilled engineers, two of whom joined SCSAM in the past year. The newest arrival, Jeffrey Pigott, specializes in electron microscopy and x-ray diffractometry. John Kim also joined the staff in 2020 as a surface analysis specialist. Richard Tomazin, whose main specialties are ilion, nanoindenter, AFM, metallography, XRD and sample preparation, has been a full-time engineer at CWRU since 2013 and also works in the Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical Reliability Center and the Solar Durability and Lifetime Extension Center. Additionally, Jennifer Pyles provides invaluable administrative support.

Carter’s first step was taking advantage of the students' extended break by reorganizing the existing lab to make space for new equipment. Work is currently underway to establish safety protocol and training for students in the newly reorganized space. After receiving an investment from Case School of Engineering, the SCSAM staff began working with a UTech team to create remote-access training. This training will help the staff work toward their goal of more students being trained to use the instruments.

The updated center will also soon be home to a new Apreo scanning electron microscope, a piece of equipment acquired through a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant received by Carter in 2020. The new instrument, scheduled to arrive this spring, provides a platform to characterize all solid materials and to image insulator materials without needing to conductively coat them, reducing the complexity of conducting and analyzing the experiments. “There is something really exciting about this tool for every type of materials researcher,” said Carter. “The Apreo will serve as a bedrock to support research at CWRU now and in the future.”

"SCSAM has served as an enabling facility to so many student theses and journal articles,” said Ernst. “It has enabled materials research not just in our department, but also across the school and the university.I feel confident that the center will be in good hands and well-positioned for future growth under Jennifer’s direction.” 

"I am enthusiastic about SCSAM's potential to grow in research impact and operational effectiveness under (Carter’s) leadership, including leveraging the resources of her recent NSF MRI grant to add capacity and position the Center for future success,” said Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, Charles H. Phipps Dean, Case School of Engineering. 

"Frank Ernst has been a tireless champion and supporter of the Center,” said Balakrishnan. “His efforts led to significant successful research funding and the acquisition of many of the equipment modalities for which SCSAM has been known. I remain deeply grateful to him for his leadership of the Center."

About the Swagelok Center for the Surface Analysis of Materials

The Swagelok Center for the Surface Analysis of Materials was established in 1986 as the Center for Surface Analysis. In that year, CWRU received a multi-investigator Multi-University Research Initiative grant from DARPA, allowing for the purchase of several surface analytical instruments. The Principal Investigator for that grant, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus Arthur Heuer, served as the Center’s first faculty director until 2016. Ernst also served on the Center’s faculty leadership team with Heuer and the late Professor Gary Michal, prior to taking on the role of faculty director in 2016.

Over the course of his tenure at CWRU, Ernst served as a PI on proposals that brought eight major instruments to SCSAM: a Tecnai TF30 transmission electron microscope, an XPS system, a FEI Quanta 3D ESEM/FIB, a TOF-SIMS microscope, a Zeiss Libra energy-filtering transmission electron microscope, a Fischione NanoMill 1040, an RHK atomic-resolution scanning probe microscope, and an ASTAR system for orientation mapping.

In 2006, the Center received a $1 million endowment gift from the Fred A. Lennon Charitable Trust. The Center was renamed Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials in honor of the company Lennon founded in 1947.