In a recent interview with 2013 ASM Award program recipient, Matthew Perricone, Ph.D., provided some insight into what it takes to be recognized in the company of such distinguished fellowship.
Dr. Perricone, you have been awarded the Silver Medal of the Society. This award recognizes your leadership abilities and your distinguished contributions to both material science and engineering and to the Society.
Let’s start with how you have made significant contributions in your field of study. What do you consider to be, personally, your most satisfying scientific/technical achievement?
Dr. Perricone: It is truly an honor to be recognized in this fashion by the Society of my chosen profession, materials science and engineering. I have attended the ASM Awards Dinner as a spectator in the past, and it is awe-inspiring to see such accomplished individuals receive awards for their scientific excellence. That I was one of the honorees this year is an incredible milestone for my career and I am truly thankful for those ASM members who nominated me. On the technical side, I am particularly proud of the corrosion investigations I have led and conducted, ranging from evaluation of the corrosive properties of World Trade Center dust to the multi-district litigation surrounding imported Chinese drywall. I am also proud of the contributions I made to the U.S. Department of Energy while working at Sandia National Laboratories. But perhaps most consistently satisfying is the regular interactions that I have with our clients, and the ability to see the results of my work solve critical problems for them. I have always enjoyed fundamental scientific research, but there is nothing quite like the immediate feedback of solving real world problems.
You have been recognized for your “diverse contributions to the fields of materials science, corrosion, welding, and failure analysis in support of manufacturing and product development.” How has working at RJ Lee Group fostered your success in these areas?
Dr. Perricone: I often joke that we count our time at RJ Lee Group in dog years, which is not meant to convey that it is a difficult place to work, but rather that the diversity of experience you gain from working in our consulting business is hard to compare otherwise. The variety of projects can be overwhelming without the recognition that the common thread throughout all of the problems we solve is materials science, regardless if it is a client in the nuclear industry or building products, oil/gas production or pharmaceuticals. In fact, that remarkable commonality was the aspect of materials science that drew me to this field from the very beginning, because it requires knowledge about chemistry and electrical engineering, physics, and mechanical engineering. And at RJ Lee Group, I get to work side by side with experts in physics and chemistry, biology and mechanical engineering, geology and industrial hygiene, as well as other materials scientists. Working with my colleagues and RJ Lee Group’s clients has made me a better scientist because I learn from them, as does working in the litigation arena as that requires the ability to identify and address critical scientific issues in a cogent and defensible manner that can withstand scrutiny.
Since this is a mid-career award that is given to younger members of the Society, it’s clear ASM finds it important to recognize these abilities early on in a scientist’s career. In your opinion, how does ASM International foster growth and development of younger members of the society?
Dr. Perricone: I have consistently regarded ASM International as my professional home, particularly when I became the inaugural Chair of the ASM Emerging Professionals committee several years ago. I had already been an active member of my local chapter (Albuquerque at the time) but the ability to contribute significantly at the national level was extremely rewarding and encouraged me to look for other avenues within ASM to volunteer. ASM International has also taken the lead in trying to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through day- or week-long Materials Camps for high school students, held over the summer months. While at Lehigh University, I helped to develop and teach the first ever graduate-student run Materials Camp for students in the Lehigh Valley. Years later, while Chair of the ASM Albuquerque Chapter, that Chapter hosted a week-long Materials Camp for high school teachers and materials science related content has now entered the high school curriculum through their efforts.
So many of the challenges facing our Society require applying materials science. One of the reasons I am an active member of ASM International is that new minds are needed to contribute to solutions for the many materials challenges that face our Society now and for generations to come – and it is important for me personally to give back to a profession that has already given me so much.
Congratulations on this prestigious award, Dr. Perricone, and thanks for taking time out to give us some insight into your career.