The Ceramic Leadership Summit opened with an audience-driven discussion on business opportunities featuring, from left, Rod Lanthorne (Kyocera), Joel Moskowitz (Ceradyne) and David Morse (Corning).

The Ceramic Leadership Summit opened with an audience-driven discussion on business opportunities featuring, from left, Rod Lanthorne (Kyocera), Joel Moskowitz (Ceradyne) and David Morse (Corning).

For two students who are used to attending technical conferences like MS&T and ICACC, the experience at the first Ceramic Leadership Summit was an exciting departure from the conference norm.

The Summit, held June 21-22, 2010 in Baltimore, Md., replaced the typical research presentation sessions with content that was far more global in its perspective. Discussions focused on technologies and materials that could shape the future, from energy, to medical, to military technology. A session on global business trends gave insight into the predicted growth of a large number of aspects of the ceramics/materials industry, and even the products that were driving those areas of the market. For example, the growth of the lithium-ion battery market was surprisingly traced to a recent surge in sales of electric bikes in Asia.

Of particular interest, though, was the education session, directed by Doreen Edwards (Alfred University) and Wayne Huebner (Missouri S&T). Edwards’ talk on education curricula led to a discussion amongst the roughly 200 attendees (nearly 60% of whom were from industry) about subjects that should be included in undergraduate coursework. Some of the subjects mentioned were energy materials and technology, coatings, and even proper usage of analytical and processing equipment.

Huebner delivered a passionate call-to-arms for members of industry and academia alike, to actively support university ceramics and materials programs across the country, thereby ensuring the graduation of competent engineers able to find jobs in the ceramics industry. Talking with a number of different Summit attendees revealed similar concern for the well-being of today’s students, which is always exciting for those who are currently students to hear.

On the topic of talking with different people, arguably the networking opportunities that came from attending the Summit represented the most exciting part of the two-day event. We met all sorts of people, including alumni from our current schools, researchers and industry representatives. Learning about the different career paths available to students after graduation was a highlight of the event. We found out that graduates could go on to be Congressional fellows charged with bringing materials expertise to legislation passed on Capitol Hill; or they could become 50% of a company’s research and development staff; or they could even go on to become vice-presidents, presidents or CEOs of multimillion dollar corporations such as Ceradyne or Corning.

We were also invited into the Future Leaders Program for members of ACerS’ Young Professionals Network, which meant waking up rather early in the morning to enjoy a pre-conference breakfast, served with a side of leadership training, with young graduates of our field. Friendships were quickly developed during those mornings as we got to know some of the people that would be our coworkers and fellow leaders after we graduated from university life and moved on to our careers.

All of the different aspects of the Leadership Summit came together into a fantastic experience. Over the course of just two days, we learned about some key trends in industry and education that will shape the future that we will step into after graduation. The variety of conversations we participated in also gave us a unique perspective on the ceramics community that cannot be easily gained at a technical conference. Our experience was one that we sincerely hope other undergraduate and graduate students will choose to share through participation in future Summits.

David Shahin is the council chair of ACerS’ President’s Council of Student Advisors at Missouri S&T. Chris Dosch is the recruitment chair of PCSA at the University of Florida.

(Editor’s note: We will be posting videos from the Summit over the next few weeks.)