Published: March 30, 2021 By

Shane Frazier
Shane Frazier

Shane Frazier is a graduate student in the Materials Science and Engineering Program, working in the Living Materials Lab under Associate Professor Wil Srubar. He is preparing to defend his PhD thesis in late May. Frazier earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering and his BA in Chemistry from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He is originally from Greenfield, Indiana.

What brought you to CU Boulder?
We moved to Boulder so my wife could start her PhD in German Studies at CU. I had been considering coming back to graduate school since I finished my undergraduate degrees. After her first year, I decided it was time for me to leave industry and make the dive into graduate school.

What is the focus of your research thus far? What problems do you hope to solve?
My research focuses on utilizing biomimetic antifreeze polymers to provide freeze-thaw resistance to concrete. The current approach to make concrete more resistant to freeze-thaw damage—think potholes on the highway—is to introduce a bunch of air bubbles, and this approach has been basically unchanged since the 1930s. Although this approach can be effective, adding air bubbles lowers compressive strength of concrete, and it is difficult to do reliably and consistently in the field.

A variety of cold-tolerant species produce antifreeze proteins which bind to ice nuclei to stop or slow the growth of ice within cells, extracellular fluid, etc. Proteins are relatively expensive to produce at scale, but luckily there are a few polymers that have been shown to display similar "antifreeze" properties.

I have shown that these biomimetic antifreeze polymers can provide freeze-thaw resistance in cement paste, but I am still working on understanding the limitations and their impact on fresh- and hardened-state properties of cement and concrete.

What attracted you to the MSE program?
My favorite undergraduate course was Materials Engineering, and since taking that class I had been interested in the MSE field. It was a mix of my undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mechanical engineering.

I was very interested in the work being done by Wil, my adviser, which is what ultimately made me choose the MSE program at CU.

How has the program benefited your research?
A really big benefit of the program is the ability to access equipment. Since the program is tied to so many departments, I have been able to access every piece of equipment I needed except one—CU does not have the piece of equipment on campus.

Professors that are affiliated with the program have always been responsive to inquiries about using equipment. I have used equipment in labs with PIs from chemistry, chemical and biological engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, INSTAAR, USGS and civil engineering, plus all of the core facilities.

What is a problem or challenge you encountered as a student here, and how did you overcome it? Who gave you a helping hand?
I had several major life events happen during my time here at CU. My adviser, labmates and friends that I made at CU helped me through all of these. Wil has always been extremely understanding and accommodating. The exact same thing can be said of my labmates who were always quick to ask how they could help.

How do you strike a balance between your work as a student and your personal life?
Having a kid in graduate school has made me strike a balance because there is truly no option. I just spend more time planning and thinking things through to ensure I meet deadlines.

For those without kids, I know MSE students in many different labs, and I think it is safe to say that advisers at CU are very understanding of work-life balance—many friends and acquaintances go skiing, snowboarding, climbing or hiking almost every weekend.

Why might you recommend MSE to students considering a graduate program in science and engineering?
So much research being done is interdisciplinary, and in my opinion MSE is by default interdisciplinary because every science and engineering discipline uses materials.

Where do you want to go after earning your PhD?
Wil and I just started a company at the beginning of 2021 called Minus Materials. After I defend my thesis, I will focus on leading and growing the company.

What do you do for fun or in your spare time?
I spend almost all my spare time with my wife, daughter and our two dogs. Outside of spending time with them, I always make time to exercise.

What is your favorite film(s), book(s), sport(s) or other media-related interests, and why? Do your interests in art, literature, and cinema have an influence on your research and goals as a materials scientist?
My favorite books are The Kingkiller Chronicle series and The Expanse series. I try to read books at night to get my mind off research. Outside of books, I love sports.