Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Live with a Tribologist

What can you learn from a spouse or loved one who is a tribologist/lubrication engineer? Lots!

Wendy Schrama (wife of Rick Schrama, a long-time STLE member) previously gave a very entertaining talk at the Hamilton Section, and we decided we wanted to learn more about what it takes to support a spouses' passion for tribology throughout 30+ years of marriage.

Sniegowski: Tell us a little about yourself.
Schrama: I have been a Registered Nurse since 1976 and have worked in all areas of nursing. To keep my mind active I became addicted to learning and obtained three degrees. I am presently studying law at a college and plan to become a paralegal. Rick and I have an engineering consulting business and since Rick has semi-retired our business, Tribological Services, has become our focus.

Sniegowski: What made you decide to speak on this topic?  How’d you get the idea?
Schrama: The idea of sharing what life is like with a tribologist and how I have managed to “survive” has always been a part of me. Rick, who sits on the Board of the Hamilton Chapter of the STLE asked me if I would be willing to speak on this topic for the section's Spousal Night (spouses are invited to attend the regular monthly meeting). They usually get a magician or an illusionist to entertain the guests, but this was different. I was flattered to be asked, so I said yes - Rick had already come up with the title.

Sniegowski: How familiar were you with tribology before meeting your husband? 
Schrama: I had no clue! After we met, I went to see Dofasco's new hot mill. When I got home, Rick asked me if I saw the bearings. I pretended I did, but was thinking “what's a bearing?” In short...I knew nothing at all. However, I'm addicted to learning and Rick had a bunch of tribology magazines laying around, so I read some of the articles. I then started to read some of the chapters he was writing for various books. As time went on, I understood more and more about the complex - and I mean very complex - world of tribology. It also helped when I heard how tribology plays a role in the engine of a car and in the human body. With both there is lubrication, wear and friction and having real world examples was key.

Sniegowski: What are some quirky or unique qualities you find in a tribologist?
Schrama: Tribologists (or just my husband) tend to keep everything they have. Rick's home office (and the garage, for that matter) are packed full or articles, publications and books (see right!)

Sniegowski: How was your talk received at the section meeting? What kind of response did you get? 
Schrama: I wanted the talk to be light-hearted, as this was supposed to be an enjoyable night. Within 10 seconds I had the audience laughing and the more they laughed, the more enjoyable the talk became. I saw a woman nodding her head at each slide, and someone else mentioned another unique quality - tribologists do not stop talking!

Sniegowski: Any advice for others in the same situation?
Schrama: Do not expect to learn it all. But you can learn and relate by thinking of tribology and it's role in the real world - like with your knees or a car engine. It might help make sense of it all. You also need to realize that tribology is a massive subject, and a very complex science. Not even a tribologist can know it all.

Our final note: And that's what makes it so interesting!

Have you had a similar experience? How do you explain your profession to your family?

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