Sumin Zhu

Sumin Zhu, PhD CerE’08, knows about heat. As a senior research engineer and principal scientist in the enabling technologies department at Vesuvius in Pittsburgh, Pa., his team works on high-temperature ceramics that can operate under the most extreme conditions, including the continuous casting of steel.

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Sumin Zhu. (Photo by Joe Korona/The Art of Photography)

“Vesuvius is a global leader in high-temp ceramics and refractories,” he says. “My department focuses on long-term research and strategies for new products and innovations.”

“My department focuses on long-term research and strategies for new products and innovations.”

Zhu says his department doesn’t work for a particular business unit; rather they look for the latest innovations that can be applied to any of the company’s various products. “Some of these innovations may not be realistic today,” he says. “But they could be applied to the next generation of products.”
What he finds most exciting about his job is when his discovery or idea is used in practical engineering applications. He cites as an example a product that is made of highly porous ceramics (70-80 percent porosity). He says this kind of material can survive temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Celsius and has excellent thermal insulation properties, which means significant energy savings for the customer.
Zhu earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Chinese universities prior to coming to Rolla in 2005.
“I enjoyed Rolla. I liked that it was a small town with friendly people,” he says. “Pittsburgh reminds me a bit of Rolla with its rolling hills, but it’s not as hot in the summer.”
He enjoys running in his free time, and watching movies. He says they help him understand how other people live and think. “Obviously I can’t experience everything personally, and I might be limited by my mindset,” he says. “Movies help me explore new ways of thinking, different lifestyles. They open my eyes.”
Vesuvius has offices throughout the world and is growing its business in China. Zhu hopes his knowledge of the culture might provide additional opportunities in the future with the company.

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