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[Image above] Credit: ACerS

Planning a virtual conference for a couple hundred attendees is challenging. But how do you convert a conference that typically welcomes a couple thousand people when held in-person to a successful virtual event? That was the challenge ACerS staff faced this year when planning how to safely hold ACerS Annual Meeting at the 2020 Materials Science & Technology (MS&T20) meeting.

MS&T is an annual technical meeting and exhibition coorganized by ACerS, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST), and The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). In addition to each society holding their annual meeting in conjunction with MS&T, the meeting involves dozens of parallel sessions featuring hundreds of oral and poster presentations.

When quarantines and travel restrictions began taking effect in the United States this March, the three societies came together to discuss what would become of this year’s MS&T. In July, the societies formally announced the unwanted but necessary decision to cancel the in-person conference. However, a month later, the pivot to MS&T20 Virtual was confirmed.

ACerS traditionally holds its Annual Meeting activities at MS&T. But to simplify MS&T this year, ACerS held its Annual Business and Division meetings a month before MS&T, during the week of October 5. MS&T Virtual then took place last week from November 2–6. Over 1,200 people from 40 countries attended the event.

“I want to thank all of our volunteers, exhibitors, presenters, and staff for making ACerS Annual Meeting at MS&T a great success. We attracted over 1,200 attendees and over 800 high-quality presentations,” says ACerS executive director Mark Mecklenborg. “The best thing about the MS&T virtual meeting is that anyone can still register for this conference and access all of these 800 presentations through the end of December.”

Below are highlights from ACerS Annual Meeting at MS&T20.

President Ohji passes the gavel

On Monday, Oct. 5, the 122nd ACerS Annual Business Meeting took place virtually from 10–11 a.m. Eastern. ACerS president Tatsuki Ohji summarized the Society’s 2019–2020 accomplishments, including the establishment of a new Energy Materials and Systems Division and the successful pivot to a virtual format for several ACerS meetings. (See recaps of those meetings here and here.)

After retiring officers and directors on the ACerS Board of Directors and Executive Committee were recognized and new officers and directors acknowledged, 2020–2021 ACerS president Dana Goski talked about her goals for the Society next year, including improving ACerS’ online learning programs and growing virtual and hybrid meeting offerings.

ACerS past president Tatsuki Ohji (2019–2020) shows off his newly received past president pin, which arrived to him in Japan before the Annual Business Meeting. 2018–2019 ACerS past president Sylvia Johnson (top right) says the Society was “very fortunate” to be led by Ohji’s “calmness, thoughtfulness, and care for the Society.” Dana Goski (bottom right) was sworn in as the Society’s next president. Credit: ACerS

Diversity, inclusion, equity take center stage

The importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity in our lives took on new urgency this year in response to the social movements that swept the nation starting in May.

ACerS has always aimed to build a community that welcomes, includes, and supports people from all walks of life, a sentiment that is shared by AIST and TMS. That is why on Wednesday the three societies cohosted a town hall on broadening participation in the materials science and engineering profession.

ACerS president-elect Elizabeth Dickey monitored the session, which kicked off with presentations by National Society of Black Engineers executive director Karl Reid and University of California, San Diego professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering Olivia Graeve before transitioning into a panel discussion that answered questions from the audience. The recording of the town hall is available below on YouTube.

Credit: The American Ceramic Society, YouTube

New Division award: Anna O. Shepard

A number of important award lectures are given by ACerS members at MS&T each year, including the Arthur Friedberg Ceramic Engineering Tutorial and Lecture, Richard Fulrath Awards, Edward Orton Jr. Memorial Lecture, Rustum Roy Lecture, and Alfred Cooper Young Scholar Award.

This year, a new Division award and the accompanying lecture premiered at ACerS Annual Meeting at MS&T20—the Anna O. Shepard Award, given by the Art, Archaeology and Conservation Science Division.

The Shepard Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to materials science applied to art, archaeology, architecture, or cultural heritage. The inaugural presentation of this award went to Ronald Bishop, research archaeologist and curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a long-term research associate at the NIST National Center for Neutron Research. He talked about ceramic compositional analysis from an Americanist archaeological perspective.

This year’s Rustum Roy lecture by Penn State professor James Adair also was particularly noteworthy. He presented a talk titled “Early Retrospectives from the Time of COVID,” a topic of high interest to all.

Students at MS&T20: Mug drops, speaking contests, humanitarian pitch

Students are a big part of ACerS, and each year there are several events organized specifically for student and Material Advantage members. Though some of the rules for certain competitions were modified for the virtual format, students still enjoyed a robust program of engagement at this year’s MS&T.

Material Advantage Student Speaking Contest

The Material Advantage Student Speaking Contest took place via prerecorded videos that were uploaded to the virtual MS&T platform. This year’s winner was Jerry Howard of the University of Utah, who presented on improving materials for pulp capping using sodium metasilicate glass.

Credit: ACerS

Student mug drop and disc throw

For this year’s mug drop and disc throw contests, students submitted videos showing their attempts. Pictured is the mug drop entry by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PCSA Humanitarian Pitch Competition

Like the speaking contest, participants in the second annual Humanitarian Pitch Competition uploaded videos of their presentations. This year’s winner was the team H2Flow from Colorado School of Mines, who presented on developing water filters out of concrete, almond leaves, and sand.

Credit: H2Flow, Colorado School of Mines

Because of the virtual format, the Annual Awards Banquet regrettably could not be held in person this year. Instead, ACerS compiled a special 2020 Virtual Awards Celebration video honoring all of this year’s awardees. You can watch the video here and learn about all the awardees’ important accomplishments in the ceramic and glass community.

The MS&T Virtual platform will remain available for attendees until the end of December so they can rewatch lectures or sessions they may have missed last week. And it’s not too late to register—you can still register here and gain access to all of the recordings.

ACerS Annual Meeting at MS&T21 will take place Oct. 17–21, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. We look forward to seeing you in person next year!