Endowment strives to enhance research opportunities at MSU

Photo of John and Karen WordenJohn and Karen Worden have established an endowed research fund to develop know-how in key areas to attract industry attention and research connections.

John Worden used his degrees from the MSU College of Engineering for a successful career in materials engineering at two name-brand American companies. He earned two degrees in metallurgical engineering, a bachelor’s degree in 1963 and a master’s degree in 1965.

On the job, he saw the importance of research relationships between universities and businesses. Now he wants to help MSU strengthen its research role with businesses through the John and Karen Worden Endowed Research Fund.

"My interest in funding research through this endowment is to develop technology and know-how in key areas that will attract industrial attention and link-up with the research areas of MSU engineering professors," Worden explained.

After graduation, Worden served in the U.S. Navy. In 1968 he joined the research department of Alcoa Laboratories in New Kensington, Pa., where he worked in the areas of solidification and melting technologies associated with aluminum ingot casting. In 1974 he joined the research and engineering department of Cummins, Inc., in Columbus, Ind., where he spent the rest of his career. One of his major projects there was an effort to improve piston reliability for heavy-duty pistons by application of metal base composite materials to prevent thermal crown cracking of the piston.

The Worden Endowment is specifically to support research related to advanced manufacturing methods for parts production. One possibility is research and development of 3-D printing, a new technology for making parts from metals and ceramics. "This novel technology has significant technical benefits including the manufacture of more complex parts as well as the use of difficult-to-fabricate new materials, lower part weight, and increased life span," Worden said. "This is an exciting new technology of the future, and I believe the MSU College of Engineering could forge significant partnerships with industry in this kind of research."

Like so many other College of Engineering graduates, Worden has fond memories of his professors. "If Hollywood were to look for the perfect person to play the part of the kindly professor in a movie, it would be Howard Womochel, professor of metallurgical engineering. He always had great empathy for his students. I remember that if we drifted off during his lectures, he would bring us back to reality with the words ‘Gentlemen, you will have to know this information when you get into industry.' "