When it comes to starting off the day, many of us begin with a cup of coffee. But what does it do to your teeth? Kris Schumacher’s 12-year-old daughter wanted the answer, so she set out to conduct her very own experiment to discover whether adding milk to our coffee can help protect our teeth from staining. She soaked 15 bright white hardboiled eggs in 15 cups of coffee containing various ratios of coffee to milk. The biggest challenge she had was how to quantify the staining. With the help of her dad, she took high-resolution images with a digital camera and used Photoshop to analyze the intensity of the pixels. She observed the upward trend of the staining effects in relation to the coffee to milk ratio and concluded that less milk in the cup of coffee resulted in more staining. Experiments and science come naturally to this father-daughter duo, but the thrill of discovery keeps them interested.
Every day brings a new adventure for Kris Schumacher, Principal Engineer and Group Leader at MRIGlobal. He grew up in Higginsville, a small-town east of Kansas City, where he helped his father on the farm. He didn’t have constant supervision growing up and this helped him to develop an internal accountability and a drive to do things for himself.
“Growing up, my parents were hard-working and encouraged me to follow my interests, but there was never any pressure, they were very hands-off people,” Schumacher said. Science resonated with him from an early age. He would often supplement his chemistry sets with new chemicals, and his dad even carved out some bench space in the backyard shed for his experiments.
He met his wife, Kelly, while attending the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where they were lab partners and enjoyed traveling to Columbia and St Louis. The couple married in Seattle while they were both in graduate school. Kris earned his master’s and PhD at the University of Washington and then headed across the country to Baltimore, Maryland for his post-doctorate work at Johns Hopkins. When the newlyweds started their family, they felt the pull to leave the coast and return to the Kansas City area.
Schumacher began at MRIGlobal in 2010 and has established an enjoyable niche within the contract research side of the business. The companies motto, ‘Challenging Problems; Smart Solutions,’ resonates with him. “MRIGlobal is a perfect fit for me,” he said. “There is always something new, important, and challenging to work on.”
One of the most recent challenges Schumacher has successfully addressed at MRIGlobal is finding out if it is possible to safely confine toxic gases within a fixed location without using a solid container. “We needed to design a completely new way to test chemical and biological standoff detectors,” Schumacher said. Standoff detectors give an early warning on airborne chemical and biological threats up to several kilometers away. Schumacher used his knowledge of fluid dynamics, physics, and modeling and simulation to help the team develop a new type of containment chamber. Earlier this year, a prototype was built and was effective.
Since joining MRIGlobal, he has also taught several university classes. First, undergraduate engineering classes at Rockhurst and currently graduate classes at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He will teach a “Turbomachines” class in the fall and an “Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics” class in the spring. He has embraced the role of mentor in advising graduate students. “It is something that I feel like I can give my time and expertise. I can advise, educate, and help develop the Kansas City region,” Schumacher says.
The Kansas City area has provided him a great opportunity to find balance between career and family. He has three kids: his oldest daughter will be in 7th grade and is already a budding scientist and artist, a son in 5th grade who enjoys math and wants to make YouTube videos or be a football player, and his youngest daughter is interested in fashion and hopes to be a singer.
Currently, Schumacher is working on multiple government projects with several new commercial projects scheduled over the next year. His work life balance gives him an opportunity to learn new things and teach lessons that will have an impact on our future. It is this balance that inspires him every day.