Skip to main content

CBE Alumna Brings Rheology Expertise to UT

This is a modified version of an article originally written by Izzie Gall for The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Ria Corder, with CBE, Faculty headshot taken in the Communications Studio on January 30, 2024. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

Ria Corder (Ph.D. ’20) joined the UT Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in January 2024 as a rheologist–a chemical engineer who studies how materials flow, deform, and recover under different circumstances.

“What excites me about rheology is that you can use that knowledge to innovate in all sorts of different application areas,” Corder said. “My training does not limit me to studying only energy materials or only biological materials. In fact, I like to find work at the boundaries between disciplines.”

During her doctoral research at North Carolina State University, Corder examined how tumors respond to liquefying enzyme treatments and characterized UV-cured polymer networks for applications in energy storage and climate change mitigation. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University, she analyzed the flow behavior of ceramic particle suspensions used in additive manufacturing (AM) to fabricate complex parts for heat-conducting or heat-shielding applications.

UV-curable and additively manufactured materials continue to hold a special fascination for Corder due to their unique requirements at different stages of manufacturing.

“In order to deposit a material into a 3D structure layer by layer, you need to flow it through some sort of nozzle,” Corder explained. “Understanding how that material flows initially, evaluating how added components affect the flow and ensuring that the final material has the right properties are crucial to large-scale AM.”

As she sets up her lab’s rheometer—the highly modular device that lets scientists measure rheological properties like viscosity and elastic modulus—Corder is also excited to utilize the characterization facilities at UT’s Polymer Characterization Lab, a facility within the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (IAMM).

Corder, who began lab work during her own undergraduate degree, is also excited to integrate both graduate and undergraduate students into her lab. Whether students have plans to go to graduate school or into industry positions, Corder believes it is important to give them the opportunity to direct their own research projects.

“In research, you’re trying to do something new. The outcome is unknown,” she said. “You have to be creative and then persevere even when it doesn’t work as expected. Even in industry, they’re going to encounter all sorts of new challenges that no one in the company knows how to solve. I hope to give the students the confidence to take those challenges on.”