UA to offer first corrosion engineering program


The University of Akron's proposed new corrosion engineering program — the first bachelor's degree program of its kind in the United States — is moving closer to development due to $500,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The funding was given to the university June 17 in a check ceremony held in Buchtel Hall. Attendees from the DoD's Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight included:

  • Director Dan Dunmire; and
  • Larry Lee, chief of staff.

UA representatives included:

  • President Dr. Luis M. Proenza;
  • Dr. Elizabeth Stroble, senior vice president, provost and chief operating officer;
  • Dr. George Haritos, dean of the College of Engineering;
  • Dr. Stanley Silverman, dean of Summit College;
  • Holly Harris Bane, associate vice president for strategic initiatives and engagement;
  • Sue Louscher, director, Medina County University Center; and
  • Dr. Mark Soucek, associate professor of polymer engineering.

Also attending was Dr. Aziz Asphahani, an internationally recognized member of the corrosion industry and a recent addition to the UA project team. While on campus, the DoD representatives took tours of UA's College of Engineering and College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, and conducted curriculum discussions with UA faculty and deans.

New program

In response to requests from industry and the DoD, The University of Akron is seeking to establish the first comprehensive education program in the field of corrosion engineering and corrosion science. The Summit College certification courses and associate degree program will be delivered from UA's new Medina County University Center, and the bachelor of science degree will be housed in the College of Engineering. To complement this project, funding for a new Corrosion Sciences Lab is being explored.

"The goal of every university is to have a positive effect on its students, surrounding community and region, and the nation as well," Proenza says. "This type of collaborative effort with the U.S. Department of Defense demonstrates The University of Akron's determination to address vital issues affecting our nation and its infrastructure."

Visionary leadership

Historically perceived as the heart of the nation's "rust belt," Ohio - and Northeast Ohio in particular - is the logical place to launch this landmark program that focuses on technology and knowledge-driven solutions that will help to mend and preserve our nation's aging infrastructure and national security assets, Stroble explains.

"Innovative leadership is the driving factor behind this initiative, and The University of Akron has been among the nation's leaders in embracing the vision of collaborations and partnerships," she says. "This initiative is a stellar example of this visionary leadership."

First and only in nation

By providing the nation's first and only bachelor's degree in this field, the corrosion engineering initiative complements and extends numerous existing and emerging UA strengths, Stroble adds.

There are many compelling reasons for establishing an undergraduate corrosion engineering degree at UA, especially the opportunities to deliver courses via distance learning technologies, Haritos says.

"First, there is a national economic imperative for effectively reducing the costs of corrosion to our nation's public and private entities and infrastructure," Haritos adds. "Second, there is a national security mandate to address the impact of corrosion on military assets. Finally, there is a gap in the academic training of engineers who are qualified to address the complex nature of corrosion prevention and mitigation."

Corrosion costs are immense

A 2001 report to the Federal Highway Administration noted that the direct costs of corrosion to the U.S. economy represents 3.2 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product - $279 billion - and the total costs can be more than twice that amount. Additional concerns are the costs of human health and national economic sustainability based on deteriorating infrastructure, equipment and machinery.

The report concluded that corrosion has a major impact on the U.S. industrial complex and associated infrastructure as well as an adverse effect on industrial productivity, international competitiveness and security.

Because the annual impact of corrosion on the DoD is estimated to be $15 billion, the U.S. Congress mandated that the DoD establish and support programs that address this issue.

Benefits for Washington and entire nation

"The University of Akron initiative to develop a program to deliver a bachelor of science degree in corrosion engineering is not only innovative; it is in alignment with and supports the Department of Defense Corrosion Prevention Strategic Plan and its associated education and training initiatives," Dunmire says. "Because The University of Akron is part of a multi-university research and development collaboration addressing Department of Defense corrosion requirements, the DoD is excited about the university's new program, which will not only help the Executive Branch but the nation as well," he adds.