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Women in Engineering: Amy DiRienzo

August 20, 2012

College of Engineering and Applied Science student Amy DiRienzo graduated magna cum laude (3.89 GPA) with her BS of Mechanical Engineering in May 2011.  She is now currently a Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate with a research emphasis on the design, fabrication, and experimentally characterizing bio-inspired materials with improved mechanical properties for emerging applications.  Further, Amy is conducting research to develop a porous polymer scaffold capable of withstanding loading needed for orthopedic biomedical implants, matching trabecular bone stiffness, and being compatible with clinical imaging techniques.

Amy’s current advisor is Carl Frick, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering.   He joined the CEAS at UW in 2008 having previously been employed with Abbott Vascular Inc., located in Santa Clara, CA.  She specifically sought out Dr. Frick as her advisor due to his on-going involvement with research in both materials science and bioengineering.  Amy is expected to complete her PhD program in the fall of 2014.    

Amy was originally exposed to engineering during elementary school when a woman in the field came to visit and make a presentation in her classroom.  She later attended the Engineering Summer Program (ESP) at UW during her junior year of high school.  She now teaches a composites class in the ESP program and hopes to pass on the same inspiration to other potential students that she received beginning in elementary school. 

Since August 2011 Amy has worked as a graduate fellow with the Science Posse.  The program has given Amy the opportunity to visit elementary and middle schools throughout the state and work directly with students while also promoting the field of engineering.  She shares her research with students by teaching lessons on polymers and composite materials, giving presentations on careers and research in materials science, and mentoring students working on science fair projects. The Science Posse has been able to visit schools representing 19 of the 23 counties in the state of Wyoming.

In both 2010 and 2011, Amy was named a Wyoming NSF-EPSCoR (Wyoming’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Undergraduate Research Fellow.  Throughout 2011, she conducted research in the advanced materials laboratory developing a manufacturing procedure for electrically conductive nanoparticle reinforced polyetheretherketone (PEEK) composites.  She also characterized composites through thermo-mechanical and resistive heating experimentation.  In 2010, Amy’s research was focused on experimentally verifying the polymer matrix micro-cracking theory using poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and also performing multi-strain rate tensile experimentation and critically comparing this to the kinetic theory of fracture. 

In the fall of 2008, Amy worked as an engineering intern for local Laramie company, Firehole Composites.  During this time she wrote Python scripts and code for custom GUIs, tested the functionality of commercial composites software for finite element analysis, and performed research, data entry, and quality control for their online composites database.

Amy was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honors society, from 2009-2011, sat on the UW Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board, 2010-2011, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2008-2011, a member of the Joint Engineering Council, 2010-2011 and was also a member of the UW Engineering Funds for Enrichment Council, 2009-2010.

In 2008, Amy received Tau Beta Pi’s Outstanding Freshman award and in 2011 was the Mechanical Engineering Department Honor Book Recipient.  She has also been the recipient of numerous scholarships including; the Trustee’s Pride Hathaway Scholarship, the Joe H. Watt Honoring H.T. Person Scholarship, the Hitching Post Scholarship, the Union Pacific Engineering Scholarship,  the F.E. “Tut” and Diane Ellis Scholarship, the Richardson Family Trust Scholarship, the Val Cegelski Mcleod Memorial Scholarship, and the University of Wyoming High School Institute Scholarship.

For the past 3 years, Amy has additionally served on the External Advisory Board for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.  This board was developed to support the interaction between the department and the engineering community at large, providing input on academic issues, supporting the promotion, development and expansion of the education programs and facilities in the department, recognizing significant achievements of alumni and supporters, and assisting in fund-raising activities. 

After completion of her PhD Amy looks to work in research and development and then to eventually teach at an institution of higher learning.  Her aptitude and desire to excel establishes a combination that lends itself to success in everything she sets out to accomplish.

For additional information on the Engineering Summer Program please visit:

For additional information on the Science Posse at UW please visit:

For additional information on Wyoming EPSCoR please visit:


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