Maria De La Cinta Lorenzo MartinBy Imelda Francis • February 5, 2014
Maria De La Cinta Lorenzo Martin is an associate materials scientist within Argonne’s Energy Systems division.
What role do you play at Argonne?
Wouldn’t it be great if your car could go twice as far on a tank of gas and never need an oil change? The work I perform contributes to such lofty goals. As a member of the tribology group of the Energy Systems division at Argonne, I work towards developing technologies to reduce friction and wear on mechanical systems in order to minimize energy consumption and improve system reliability. As a materials scientist, my job is to understand materials so that we can engineer optimized tribological systems.
I am currently studying the properties of tribochemical boundary films, such as the ones that form on the components of a combustion engine. These extremely thin surface films (nanometer range) are the result of the interaction between the material, lubricant additives and operating environment. Understanding and customizing these films is key to optimizing friction and wear performance which ultimately translates into greater energy efficiency and more durable mechanical systems.
How does your work support the lab’s larger scientific mission?
An important part of my work focuses on engineering materials and mechanical systems in order to minimize friction that will ultimately mean reducing the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels. Our team also works on finding more environmentally friendly solutions to current lubrication chemistries. Knowing that my work has a direct impact on making the nation more energy independent, and thus more secure, makes my work valuable and it motivates me to give my best.
What attracted you to work at Argonne?
When I first came to Argonne as a visiting scholar, I had just graduated from the University of Seville. I thought a year in a top research laboratory would be good experience for me and good for my career, as well. Once here, I fell in love with the dynamic of Argonne. I was suddenly immersed in this multi-cultural community of scientists from all over the world, and in an exhilarating environment where learning and inter-disciplinary collaboration is the laboratory culture. Without realizing it, the year flew by and I just wasn’t ready to leave. Coming from Spain, my personal experience as a “foreigner” and young researcher has been extremely positive. Not only from my professional point of view, but from a personal point of view as well.
What are the things you like most about your work?
I love doing research, so the laboratory is a perfect fit and I have a lot of fun at work. I also really enjoy working with people, so being part of a great work group and interacting with students who come from all over the world to intern at Argonne makes my work life even richer.
What sorts of positive mentoring experiences, formal or informal, have you had at Argonne?
I have been quite lucky in this regard. Thus far in my career, I have had great mentors and I have really benefited from these relationships. I still seek out my senior coworkers and ask their advice from time to time. Now I mentor students and postdocs and I try to be a good mentor to them and teach them as much as I can about tribology and career development. So far, mentoring has been a great experience and I feel a sense of accomplishment every time one of my students decides to pursue a PhD, especially one related to tribology.
What sorts of Argonne activities or clubs do you participate in?
I just had my second child, so life is too busy for most extra activities. I am part of the Exercise Club and I love the Pilates class, so if I can find the time that is a must. In the past I participated in several Argonne clubs and was one of the founding members of the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne. For a while, I was responsible for the new postdocs welcoming committee. Being part of the committee allowed me to get to know many people at the laboratory.
How does Argonne support a positive work-life balance for you?
As a working mother who chose to continue my research right up to the births of both of my children, I can say Argonne is an excellent place to work. The Argonne Child Development Center and a flexible work schedule makes my rigorous work demands manageable and allows me to balance my personal life which includes my husband and two daughters.
What sorts of career development opportunities has Argonne provided you with?
Argonne has provided me the opportunity to explore and widen my research horizon. From my early career as a materials scientist studying mechanical properties of ceramics to my current work in tribology, I have been able to acquire valuable knowledge and experience which has given me an excellent understanding and enjoyment of the work I perform.