The magazine of the Case Alumni Association
at the Case School of Engineering

A message from Case Alumnus Editor Robert L. Smith

Applying science, creating jobs

From a humble lab in the Kent Hale Smith Building comes the kind of discoveries that are launching new products and even shaping a new industry. How’s that for applying science?

The difference between Peak Nano’s new plant in suburban Cleveland and the Polymer Processing Lab on the first floor of the Kent Hale Smith Building could not be more striking. 

At Peak Nano, technicians in white lab coats move about an immaculate “clean room” on slippered feet, tending to machines that barely hum as they churn out ultra-thin layers of polymers for advanced scopes and binoculars. 

The polymer lab on the first floor of KHL resembles an old-school machine shop. Researchers in sneakers and jeans navigate a hard, boxy space crowded with hulking machines and a confusion of wires and tubes, the guts of extruder systems that spin out polymer strands like pasta. 

Yet from this no-frills lab came the technology that helped launch Peak Nano’s state-of-the-art foundry. As you’ll learn in a story in this magazine, the polymer science developed at Case is leading to new production lines and new high-skill jobs near campus. 

Industry partners are not the only ones interested in the discoveries made in this humble lab. The U.S. Army has teamed up with the Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering and its visionaries — Professors Gary Wnek and Eric Baer — to seek better protective gear for its soldiers. 

Case does an excellent job training engineers and scientist for careers. But as the Peak Nano story illustrates, it’s also advancing new industries. That’s a story as old as Dow Chemical, Parker Hannifin, and Lubrizol Corp., of course. But we thought you would like to know about an enticing new chapter. 

Also in this issue, we introduce a new feature we’re calling Student Life. It’s a Q&A with a Case student that lends insight into the kind of young men and women Case attracts today. We begin the series with the remarkable Anika Washburn, an all-American on the soccer field who invests equal amounts of energy into her quest for a computer science degree. 

I hope the new year finds you healthy and ready for a fresh start — and includes a visit to Case Quad in 2022!

Robert L. Smith 

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