By HAROLD GWIN
The new Center for Advanced Materials Analysis at Youngstown State University is more than just a place for students to conduct research.
It is being touted as an economic development tool that will help local companies produce new products and create jobs, and perhaps draw new companies to the Mahoning Valley.
The project was made possible by a $2.1 million grant from Ohio’s Third Frontier program, and Gov. Ted Strickland joined YSU officials and others on the fifth floor of Ward Beecher Hall Thursday to cut a ribbon officially opening the center.
This is “a major step forward” in YSU’s efforts to have its materials science program designated as a state Center of Excellence, said David C. Sweet, YSU president. The lab represents the success of the Third Frontier program, he said, noting that YSU has received a total of $4 million in Third Frontier grants. The university has also used Third Frontier money to place 163 student interns in 42 different regional companies, he said.
“Third Frontier [which is up for renewal in Tuesday’s election as state Issue 1] is helping to keep our young people here in Ohio where they can build their careers,” Strickland said.
The program is the “most vital development tool” available in Ohio, the governor said.
Ohio’s public universities can develop research that can lead to economic development, he said, noting they are already conducting break-through research that will lead to the development of new products and more jobs.
“This is a true partnership,” said Tim Wagner, YSU chemistry professor and director of the center, explaining that the project wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Fireline TCON Inc., a company that is working with the university in the development of lightweight vehicle brake rotors and body and vehicle armor for the military.
Mark Peters, Fireline TCON general manager, said the project will lead to new and improved products at his company and new high tech jobs as well.
Wagner said the facility may help attract new companies to the area that don’t have the financial capability to build a $2 million materials analysis lab.
The center houses two electron microscopes, including one capable of a 1.5 million magnification, allowing researchers to analyze the internal chemical structures of advanced materials.
“Combined with other research activities now under way in the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, this center positions YSU as a driving force across Northeast Ohio in linking research with business to create new products and spark economic development,” Sweet said.
Wagner said YSU has an open-door policy regarding student use of the facility. Any student, graduate or undergraduate, can make use of it for research purposes, he said, adding that it will also be a drawing card for Ph.D. materials science and engineering students once YSU begins offering that doctoral level program.
It’s a world-class lab that few, if any, predominantly undergraduate universities have anywhere in the country, he said.