The Catholic University of America

Oct. 4, 2007

Two Engineering Doctoral Candidates Attend Course in Italy

Patrick O'Malley and Teresa Woods

This week, CUA doctoral candidates Patrick O'Malley and Teresa Woods are participating in something fairly routine for graduate students: a seminar on their area of interest, in this case, laser vibrometry.

The location of their two-day classroom is less routine: Ancona, Italy.

The pair, who are both working toward their doctorates in mechanical engineering, are attending two daylong courses at the Polytecnic University of Marche in Ancona on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5, thanks to a grant provided by the European Commission. The seminar that caught their attention was on vibration measurements, a subject both students are currently studying in "Advanced Topics in Acoustic Vibrations," a graduate class under the direction of Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Joe Vignola.

Vignola and his colleague, Assistant Professor John Judge, have been working on detecting structural abnormalities based on vibrations that are detected by a laser. Vignola has worked with colleagues at the Italian university for several years, using this process to detect unseen damage to frescoes. He suggested Woods and O'Malley apply to the program. The CUA faculty and their doctoral students are also exploring the use of this technology to detect land mines and improvised explosive devices buried underground.

O'Malley, who graduated from CUA in 2006 and received his master's degree in mechanical engineering from the university in 2007, has been working with Judge and Vignola for the past year to build a research apparatus to take 3-dimensional vibration measurements in the School of Engineering's Pangborn Hall. He was co-author of a paper about their work for the International Design Engineering Technical Conference and presented it in Las Vegas in September.

"These courses should be very helpful for us in continuing to improve our facility," O'Malley says, "and give me a deeper understanding of the various vibration measurement techniques that exist."

Woods is already planning to return to Ancona next summer, when the Italian university will host a major conference on the subject. She and O'Malley hope to have a paper accepted based on research they'll do in the coming academic year.

Ancona is located on the Adriatic Sea, a few hours drive from Venice, Florence and Rome. Both Woods and O'Malley have been to Italy before, but they're excited to return to see a region of the country away from popular tourist destinations. O'Malley, a Buffalo native who took Italian from kindergarten through eighth grade, will attempt to do some translating.

"This trip gives me a good excuse to brush up on my Italian, which is, unfortunately, something I have neglected for the last few years!" O'Malley says.

- M.M.