Senior chemistry major Madeleine Dellinger is making a name for herself in automotive research at BG Products Inc.
It all started when Associate Professor of Chemistry Ryan Huschka urged Dellinger to apply for an internship with BG Products in the summer of 2019. She applied, was interviewed and got the position.
“It was supposed to be just for the summer but everything went so well that we worked out a part-time position for me during the school year. I’ve really found my place in the lab — who knew I’d love automotive research,” said Dellinger.
She works as part of the research and development lab where engine fluid testing and automotive research are done and she was recently recognized by her team for her work.
“All of our product formulations stem from the lab,” said Dellinger. “Since I’m a student, I dedicate all of my time to special projects. In my case, it’s been building instruments. Specifically, the ROBO (Romaszewski Oil Bench Oxidation Test).”
Dellinger began working on the ROBO test, which she’s had to build from scratch, seven months ago and it’s finally nearing completion. “It is so close to the finish line. I can hardly contain my excitement,” she said.
The ROBO test is a bench test built with laboratory equipment that simulates the inside of an engine. The test is not common and not easy to build. There are only 23 tests across six labs in the United States.
“The ROBO test allows us to effectively age motor oil. So you put new oil in the reactor, and 40 hours later you have aged oil like you’d see coming out during an oil change. This allows us to explore the properties of the aged oil, specifically how it performs under cold temperatures,” she explained.
Building the test from scratch is as hard as it sounds. Dellinger said when she began, she only had the test method, which told her the standard operating procedure for running a test that was already built.
“The ROBO cannot be bought and many pieces are up to the discretion of the builder. I had to source every part, which involved lots of stainless steel fitting and connections,” said Dellinger.
A difficult task that only looked easy when comparing it to the next step — putting it all together.
“The ROBO was a steep learning curve involving wrenching, fittings, engine operations, a toxic gas, heating and cooling systems and so much more,” she said. “Thankfully, I picked it up fairly quickly and have been successful, with some bumps along the way of course.”
Dellinger will change the number of laboratories who boast this innovative technology from six to seven once it becomes approved. The approval comes once the test can correctly evaluate six reference oils provided by a testing center.
“The ROBO should be complete before graduation. I’m working with the final puzzle pieces now,” she said.
Her co-workers at BG Products are just as excited as she is about the completion of the rig. One of the lab’s team leaders recognizes “rockstars” in the lab by presenting them with a traveling heavyweight champion belt. He presented the belt to Dellinger for her work with the ROBO.
She gets to hold onto the belt, sign her name on the back and show it off until someone else does something amazing and it gets passed along.
“I love my team and everyone on it. It was an awesome surprise to be recognized for my ROBO project in front of the whole lab,” she said. “Especially a lab full of all dudes,” she added.
Dellinger has relied on her experience at Newman to familiarize herself with the lab and equipment at BG Products Inc.
“The biggest gift from Newman was the lab experience I got. I’ve been a lab TA (technology assistant) for three years in both general and organic chemistry. I spent my entire junior year in the analytical lab learning instrumentation. The lab at BG probably has at least 30 instruments so arriving at BG after my junior year was crucial.”
Not only has her knowledge and experience with lab equipment been helpful but her critical thinking and problem-solving skills have also been helpful.
“Over the years at Newman, my critical thinking and problem-solving skills were always engaged and improving, whether with peers or professors. I learned how to communicate effectively and efficiently with everything I did. Being involved with multiple clubs on campus taught me how to become a successful leader. So after almost four years, I’ve taken all of that experience and built on it as I became a part of the research team at BG,” she said.
As for the future, she plans to get her doctorate eventually. For now, she has decided to take some time off and get into some more research at BG Products Inc.