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Published on October 7th, 2015 | By: April Gocha, PhD


Buzz at MS&T15 focuses on diversity in materials science and engineering

Published on October 7th, 2015 | By: April Gocha, PhD

[Image above] The MS&T15 poster session gave scientists a chance to showcase their latest materials science and engineering developments. Credit: ACerS



MS&T15 continues to bring the best of the materials science world to Columbus, Ohio, this week as the meeting continues from its strong kickoff on Sunday.


[Get your visual recap here and here, and look to our Flickr page next week for all the photographic evidence of MS&T15!]


The annual who’s who of the materials science world has continued the MS&T tradition of delivering the best and brightest in materials science—presentations, speakers, and events have highlighted truly top-notch science and the people who make it possible.


Speaking of who’s who, do you recognize this guy?


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He’ll be back. Credit: ACerS


Although the festooned fez may have thrown you off, that’s a bronzed replica of the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Columbus is home to his annual namesake fitness expo. Like Arnold, did you also collect special ACerS buttons at MS&T15? Be sure to post a selfie with your buttons to our Facebook or Twitter page with #PinYourACerSPride. You might win a special prize!


As I listened to presentations and covered events at MS&T15, I noticed a similar thread running through this year’s conference—diversity.


It began with Sunday morning’s ACerS Division leaders roundtable discussion, an opportunity for Division leaders to bring their questions, comments, reports, and concerns to ACerS leadership.


Division leaders reported on positive initiatives and inspiring activities their members are pursing to further their research and stimulate interest in the next generation of materials scientists and engineers. One notable highlight was the Cements Division’s new promotional video, which is sure to inspire some budding scientists to study cementitous materials.


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PCSA members also tried to inspire the next generation of materials scientists and engineers with liquid nitrogen demonstrations during MS&T15 Materials Camp. Credit: ACerS


During the forum, incoming President-elect William Lee provided a few words about his vision for the Society for the upcoming year, including his thoughts on boosting the organization’s diversity. Lee pointed out that although 40% of the Society’s members are international, leadership positions currently do not reflect the diversity of the constituency.


Although building a diverse community is already one of ACerS strategic goals, Lee indicated that he will be working on strengthening action on those goals in the upcoming year.


Another important component of the Society’s diversity is its gender breakdown—although the challenges of attracting and retaining women into science are well documented, that doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. Recognition is part of the equation to mediate gender imbalance, but the next following requirement is purposeful and directed action.


The discussion about women in materials science and engineering continued Monday morning in the symposium, Advances in Ceramics, Glasses, and Composites by Women, their Mentors, and their Mentees: Mentoring and Ceramics.


The session’s first speaker, Lynnette Madsen of the NSF Ceramics Program, presented her efforts to draw attention to the accomplishments of many successful women in science and engineering—her new book, Successful Women Ceramic and Glass Scientists and Engineers: 100 Inspirational Profiles. [ACerS members, don’t forget that you save on Wiley titles with your membership!] The book, due out in the next couple of months, is also available for pre-order on Amazon.


Madsen says that part of the problem with representation of women in science is one of environment, which influences children’s interests or perceived career paths through cultural norms and gender roles.



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Lynnette Madsen catches up with Geoff Brennecka at the Young Professionals Diversity Reception. Credit: ACerS


In materials science and engineering—much like most other science and engineering fields—women are disparately recognized for their work, which creates a dearth of role model female scientists to inspire young women.


Madsen’s book helps address this dearth by providing 100 in-depth profiles of successful women in materials science and engineering. Profiles provide general information about each woman and her accomplishments, in addition to the woman’s self-described proudest moments, biggest challenges, and invaluable words of wisdom.


The book has cultural diversity, too, with profiles highlighting women from 29 countries.


Also included in the list of incredibly successful women (we’re so proud to report!) are all five female presidents who have led ACerS: Carol Jantzen, Kathryn Logan, Katherine Faber, Marina Pascucci, and Kathleen Richardson.


Successful women also kept the momentum of the conference going Tuesday morning with Sylvia Johnson delivering the ACerS Edward Orton, Jr. Memorial Lecture to open up the MS&T15 plenary session.


Johnson, of NASA Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, Calif.), detailed the materials science challenges and wonders of space travel. She shared with the engaged audience some examples of incredible materials innovations that have allowed our species to rove on Mars and collect stardust, among other out-of-this-world adventures.

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Sylvia Johnson delivering her plenary lecture. Credit: ACerS

But, Johnson said, the challenges are not over—we still need further innovations and new materials to meet the exponentially complex problems of exponentially complex space exploration.


Current estimates calculate that about 300 pounds of fuel are needed to get just 1 pound of cargo from Earth to Mars and back to Earth—and that’s just not feasible for more widespread travel and exploration of the red planet.


Innovative new materials that can provide the thermal and radiation protection needed in space, while still remaining flexible, lightweight, and durable, are really hard problems to solve, Johnson stressed. But, she reassured attendees, they are also problems that materials science can tackle.


MS&T15 continues today with more technical talks, events, and networking opportunities. Check back to CTT on Friday for a final event recap, and for those of you still at the meeting, happy final days of MS&T15!


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