Meet: Narottam Bansal
Senior Materials Research Scientist,
Lewis Research Center
Who I Am
We do research on the development of advanced materials which are strong
and tough which could be used at higher and higher temperatures in an
We work on ceramic materials. Other people work on
polymeric and metallic materials. For several years my research has been
on ceramic composites. We take continuous ceramic fiber and put it into
a ceramic matrix which becomes a composite. We use commercial fibers like
silicon carbide ceramic fibers. We fabricate the composite here, and then
we test it at high temperatures for strength and for the life of the material.
My Career Path
As a child I was always interested in how things work. I took a lot of
courses in science and math. I got my Bachelors of Science degree from
Government Degree College in Narnalu, Haryana India. I did my Masters
of Science in Chemistry at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science
in Pilani, Rajasthan. Then I went to the University of Delhi for my Ph.D.
degree in high temperature chemistry. I taught at the University for four
I took a postdoctoral assignment at the University
of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. There I conducted research on electroanalytical
chemistry for two years. Then I came to the United States for a year to
the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, New York. I was working
with sodium sulphur batteries.
Since I was on a leave of absence from my job at
the University of Delhi, I returned to my job there in India. I taught
there for another three years, and then I returned to the United States
again, to Rensselaer, but this time to the material engineering department.
I worked on glasses for fiber optic applications. These were heavy metal
fluoride glasses. Most glasses are silicate glasses, but these were fluoride
for fiber optic applications. This material is 10-100 times better than
silicate glass. Right now they use silica based for fiber optic applications.
This research lasted for three and a half years, and then I came to NASA
Lewis in 1985. I have recently been working, in collaboration with engine
companies, on the development of an environmental barrier coating material
for the engine of the High Speed Civil Transport.
I am active in the American Ceramic Society, organizing
international symposia. I have written three books, 150 articles, and
I have four patents. I have also edited six symposium proceedings. Last
year, I was inducted as a fellow of the American Ceramic Society. This
August, I was awarded NASA's medal for exceptional scientific achievements.
Why I like my Job
I get to do different things on different days. It's very exciting. Then
if you have a new idea you have the opportunity to test it. I get to work
with a lot of people as a team. I get to go to conferences and travel
to different parts of the world.
As a Child
I was very inspired by the launch of Sputnik. I really wanted to pursue
a technical career.
If someone is interested in a research career like mine they need to take
a lot of math and science classes. Then he or she needs to follow their
My mother, who was not well educated, urged me to get the best education
I could and to follow my dreams. I was the first person in my family to
get a college degree.
I plan to continue my research at NASA in the future.
I have been married for 25 years to a wonderful lady, Shashi. She has
a masters degree in mathematics. She taught high school students in India
and has stayed home to take care of our two sons. The eldest is Gaurav.
He graduated last year with a BS degree in electrical engineering from
Case Western Reserve University. Now he works for a telecommunications
company in Dallas, TX and is pursuing a Masters degree part time. My second
son, Saurabh, is a sophomore at Case Western Reserve University, and he
is studying Chemical Engineering. He wants to earn a Masters in biochemical
engineering or go to medical school.
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