Karl Gschneidner achieves scientific greatness
“Keep an open and an inquisitive mind.” Karl Gschneidner ’52
Just like the unique materials he researches, Karl Gschneidner is truly a rare find. What comes easy for him would never even appear to be easy for the masses. Gschneidner’s inquisitive mind has made him a leader and expert in rare earth materials and magnetic properties.
He works as a senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory and is an Anston Marston distinguished professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University.
A significant discovery for Gschneidner and a faculty colleague regarding a new class of alloys may revolutionize refrigeration techniques so that magnetic cooling devices use less energy. They hold three patents on the material for magnetic refrigeration. This technology has the potential to improve the refrigeration operations across many industries.
“Fifteen percent of the world’s energy is used for cooling,” says Gschneidner. “Our new technology would impact the cooling of big office buildings, airplanes, vehicles, and super market freezer sections,” explains Gschneidner. “Refining the technology will eventually become useful for home appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, too.”
Throughout his four-decade long career, Gschneidner has received many awards including the Science Alumnus of the Year in 2000 from UDM.
In 2007, he says he reached the pinnacle of his success when the National Academy of Engineering elected him as a member for his contributions to the science and technology of rare earth materials.
Gschneidner says his love for discovering new things all of the time keeps him coming to work every day. He credits his ability to mull situations, ideas, and “stuff” over and over in his head until “something lights up.”
He believes that scientists need to toot their own horn but not excessively. Gschneidner wrote a speech about the traits of successful scientists which include nine words. He says it applies just as easily as a description of the traits of entrepreneurs. He delivered it to an audience in November 2007 at Osaka University in Japan and most recently at the commencement address for the graduate college at Iowa State University in December 2007.
The nine words are: creativity, curiosity, luck, skepticism, intuition, confidence, persistence, communication and honesty.
“Most of these characteristics are important in whatever we do in life, but the mix is different for different situations,” says Gschneidner. “The mix is different for each and every one of us.”