Student Spotlight: Michelle Blum, Ph.D. Candidate in Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering

Author: Mary Hendriksen

Michelle Blum, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Notre Dame in Mechanical Engineering, focuses her research on the development, characterization, and simulation of a low-friction synthetic biomaterial for use as an articular cartilage substitute.

Michelle Blum

She explains: “Articular cartilage loss, due to diseases such as osteoarthritis or rupture of the tissue, typically results in permanent damage because of cartilage tissue’s avascular and aneural nature. Currently, the standard cure for joint pain is total joint replacement, even if the cartilage damage is limited to a small area within the whole joint. The development of a synthetic material that mimics natural cartilage behavior would be advantageous to repair focal defects in cartilage and increase the operating life of an articulating joint.”

Prior to beginning her doctoral work at Notre Dame, Michelle received a scholarship to play Division I women’s lacrosse for The State University of New York at Albany, where she participated in a 3+2 program from which she received a bachelor’s degrees in physics followed by her mechanical engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. While an undergraduate, she also worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the Fluid Systems Design Branch and the Electrostatics and Surface Physics Laboratory.

Since her arrival at Notre Dame, Michelle has worked in the Nanomechanics & Tribology Laboratory under the guidance of her adviser, Prof. Timothy Ovaert. The lab specializes in high performance materials development and characterization for tribological (friction and wear), structural, biomedical, and manufacturing applications.

Michelle says: “What I enjoy most about the graduate program at Notre Dame is that it provides opportunities to students to broaden their horizons beyond the academic setting. Also, we are applying problem-solving skills in new ways to perform research that not only leads to advancements technology, but also truly helps people and improves their standard of living.”