Dr. Kristopher Darling
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Nov. 15, 2016) - The Department of Defense selected an Army researcher as Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter.
The DOD named Dr. Kristopher Darling, a materials scientist with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Lightweight and Specialty Metals Branch, as the best in the DOD this quarter for "extraordinary service to the science and technology community."
"In a very close race, Dr. Darling was selected based on his recent discovery," said Dr. Melissa Flagg, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Research in the Nov. 10, 2016, announcement. "As a testament to the significance of Dr. Darling's contribution to his field, he recently published his findings in Nature, an interdisciplinary scientific journal that is widely regarded as one of the top two most prestigious academic journals publishing original research across a wide range of scientific fields."
Nature published Darling's research, Extreme creep resistance in a microstructurally stable nancrystalline alloy, Sept. 14, 2016.
Darling, who works at ARL's Rodman Materials Research Laboratory at APG, outlined how he and his team stabilized a copper alloy microstructure and found it to be strong at very high temperatures.
Army scientists are focused on developing new bulk-structured nanomaterials that are stabilized to high temperatures. Inside gas turbine engines it can soar to more than 2,500°F.
"The properties that we're seeing are startling I would say," he said. "They have the potential to revolutionize a lot of potential applications."
Darling earned his doctorate from NC State University in 2009 and immediately started working for the U.S. Army as a postdoctoral fellow at ARL. He soon became a federal employee at the laboratory and began his work on nanomaterials research.
"My thesis was on how we stabilize materials at high temperatures," Darling said. "Throughout the years, I wrote proposals and got funding. The more we learned about the material, the more we knew that there was something interesting. It kept driving more and more research."
Ultimately, Darling said, the path led them to conduct some tests that were unconventional.
"These tests were something that you wouldn't normally think of trying to do with these materials," Darling said. "Materials like this could possibly open a door to revolutionizing engine technology, which would be of benefit to the Army as well as civilian applications."
Darling said even he has been surprised by his career path.
"Growing up I never pictured myself even going to college or getting a PhD," he said. "I always wanted to serve the military. That's one of the reasons I joined the Army Research Lab. I applied to all of the government agencies and I wanted to work for the government because my family has a long history of serving in the military."
Darling said he's happy to come to work every day.
"There's something exciting about science," he said. "I think we make a lot of unique discoveries here and that ultimately drives me. It's almost like opening up a Christmas present when you come to work and discover something new that maybe somebody else hasn't seen or observed before."
Dr. Jeff Zabinski is the acting director for the lab's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate and served as Darling's division chief during the course of this work.
"He is an amazing person and has changed the course of our research in metals," Zabinski said. "I am excited to see where we go next, and anticipate further game-changing discoveries from Kris."
Darling said he hopes people will look at his work and take it even farther.
"I hope to contribute to something that will be a permanent sort of landmark," he said. "I think that's what anybody would want to hope for...to make some sort of contribution to science that is meaningful and lasting. I feel like I'm very fortunate. A lot of good things have happened to me in my career as a scientist."
Across the DOD, thousands of scientists pursue innovative research in support of the joint warfighter.
"I continue to be impressed with the breadth and depth of the nominations we receive and am proud to announce Dr. Darling's selection for this award," Flagg wrote in the announcement.