Dr. Barbara Rutter, a 2013 alum of Southern Arkansas University’s College of Science and Engineering, returned to her undergraduate alma mater on Wednesday, November 20, 2019, to talk to engineering freshmen about her specialty: making explosions.
“SAU provided me a good foundation for moving forward. I am glad for my time here,” Rutter said as she addressed the audience about blast physics and reflected on other aspects of her academic career.
Rutter earned her BS in engineering-physics from SAU and her masters and PhD in explosives engineering from Missouri University of Science & Technology (MST) in Rolla.
Her PhD research focused on the shock physics of blast-induced traumatic brain injury, where she related the “invisible” brain injury to observable blast injuries. Dr. Rutter is now doing her post-doctorate work at MST, the only university in the country offering a program in her field. Her projects range from synthesizing nanomaterials with explosives to shock wave interactions to suppressing underground coal mine explosions.
“I like things that go boom,” Rutter said, referencing her service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
After her first year of college, Rutter joined the Marine Corps Reserves. Under the tutelage of her professor, Dr. Abdel Bachri, she served as a physics intern during summer 2011 on a project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Rutter subsequently won first place at the Arkansas Academy of Science conference and at the IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research conference.
Rutter deployed to Afghanistan as a Marine in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. After her deployment, Rutter came back and completed her BS in engineering-physics.
On her recent visit to SAU, Rutter spoke to students about her doctoral dissertation – blast-induced traumatic brain injury. The subject has personal significance for her. “I know people who served in Afghanistan who were injured by explosives,” Rutter said. “While deployed, I started building on this idea of studying the physics of shockwaves.”
Rutter showed the students videos of actual blasts she studied using high-speed photography. She also took several questions.
“The physics knowledge I gained at SAU greatly assisted in my graduate research. Dr. Bachri gave us long tests that focused on the theory of what we did. I learned from all my courses,” Rutter said. Bachri is the dean of the COSE.
Her academic success has led to a job offer from the U.S. Department of the Navy.
However, Rutter said she is enjoying her post-doctorate work using shock physics to analyze explosive exposure.
“I have had a chance to observe Barbara as a student in many classes, and as research intern. She was like this good soldier, she always completed what was assigned to her so well and promptly came back for more!” Bachri said. “She never wastes any time, I am so proud of her.”
Dr. Rutter thanked the faculty of the Engineering and Physics Department, particularly Bachri and Dr. Sam Heintz, saying the small size of classes and quality of instruction translated well into graduate school. Rutter praised the growth she has seen in the COSE. “I am very happy to see that engineering has received ABET accreditation,” she said.