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September 1st, 2011

Materials Football Game of the Week: University of California, Davis at Arizona State University

Published on September 1st, 2011 | By: Eileen De Guire

The Game
University of California, Davis at Arizona State University
Sept. 1, 7:00 p.m., PT; Tempe, Ariz.

The last time these teams met was 71 years ago in September 1940, a contest ASU won. UC Davis is a Division 1-FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) in the Great West Conference, and ASU is a Division 1-FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team in the “new” Pac-12 Conference.

ASU has won 11 of their past 12 season opening games, however, it would be a mistake to think Davis is not a football school. College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Sochor, amassed a 156-41-5 record as UC Davis head coach during the 1970s and 1980s. His influence is still strong, as any team playing his protégé Chris Petersen‘s Boise State University Broncos can attest.

The home team
ASU, Department of Materials Science & Engineering

The ASU Sun Devils thrive on competition, which means Sean Buizer, freshman placekicker, will feel right at home as a MSE major.

First-year MSE students at ASU work through experiments to optimize the concrete composition for their bridge competition.

First-year MSE students at ASU optimize concrete compositions for their bridge competition.

At ASU, first-year students jump right into the MSE curriculum. According to department head, Jim Adams, the first semester freshman design class is structured to be very hands-on, open-ended and competitive. About a half dozen projects introduce students to engineering materials like concrete, composites, solar materials and polymers (using Silly Putty).

One of the first projects the freshmen take on is building concrete bridges with varying water and sand compositions. The “bridges” are tested under load until only one is left spanning. Students collect data during the competition, which introduces them to statistical analysis methods applied to engineering design. The highlight of the course is a high-stakes project to design a system that will allow students to “walk on water” and traverse the length of the university swimming pool without being dumped into the drink (and discerning the winners of that competition is easy).

The department attracts an unusually large proportion of ASU honors program students—25 percent compared to a university-wide 6 percent. There are about 85 undergraduate students in the department, which enjoys a retention rate of well over 80 percent. Adams attributes the enrollment stability to the department’s prospective student open houses and first-year program. “Students know more from the open house and have a reason to select MSE. [They] then have a great first semester in the fall with lots of hands-on experiences,” he says.

With 15 tenure-track faculty bringing in research funding of $9.7 million, there are plenty of opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research projects. Adams says most students gain practical experience by working on campus with a professor or through internships in industry, taking advantage of the university’s many strong ties to Phoenix-based businesses.

Connections with industry are built further through the student Material Advantage program, which invites speakers from local business to share their experiences with students. MA students also help conduct open houses for prospective students and share their enthusiasm for materials science. As fourth year student and MA president, Divya Nair says via email, “When I entered college four years ago, I wanted to explore something new and exciting, and MSE seemed to fit in every way!”

Faculty that research ceramic materials include Sandwip Dey, Nathan Newman, Peter Crozier, Della Roy and Adams. Of the late faculty member, Rustum Roy (ACerS Fellow and Dintinguished Life Member), Adams says, “The department certainly appreciated his presence and his many contributions to the department over the years.”

The undergraduate program culminates with the senior year capstone project, a design-based course, where students work with a local companies on problems they face. Staying true to the Sun Devil’s competitive spirit, ASU squares off against University of Arizona in a senior project and poster competition at the “Annual Materials Bowl” event sponsored by the Phoenix chapter of ASM International in April. The competition draws about 100 materials professionals, and scholarships are awarded to the three top ranked projects.

So, it seems very likely that, one way or another, there will be a bowl competition in Sean Buizer’s future. Game on!

The visitors
UC Davis, Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science

The UC Davis Aggie Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science describes itself as “multidisciplinary and collaborative,” and in an interview Prof. Jim Shackleford says, “We’re a small but ambitious department.”

Undergrads making ice cream the scientific way with liquid nitrogen.

UC Davis undergrads making ice cream the scientific way with liquid nitrogen

In 1993 a merged department was formed when seven materials science faculty were moved out of the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Materials Engineering to form the current department. That original combined faculty of 16 has grown to 34 tenure-track faculty members in a department that is home to about 400 undergraduates and 130 graduate students, and boasts a research budget of more than $12 million.

While the numbers might belie Shackleford’s claim to being small, a closer look confirms the ambitious part, and indeed, they pull it off by being multidisciplinary and collaborative.

The department offers five degree majors, three of which relate to materials science: chemical engineering/materials science, electronic materials engineering and materials science. (In addition, mechanical engineering/materials science dual degree program resides in the school’s mechanical engineering department.) The first two of these have their roots in earlier dual degree programs that married chemical engineering or electrical engineering with materials science. Today, 40-50 undergraduates are working toward strictly materials science degrees, and about 100 are enrolled in one of the dual degree programs.

Outside-the-classroom experiences are considered a fundamental part of the UC Davis undergraduate program. Shackleford says of undergraduate participation in research, “Research is heavily encouraged, and campuswide it is given a very high priority.” CEMS professor Subhash Risbud, who is also director of the UC Davis Internship and Career Center agrees saying, “Research is almost a required part of the program. All the professors have undergraduates working in their groups, and close to 100 percent of the students participate in their second, third or fourth year.” Risbud notes that campuswide, 50-70 percent of students have an internship experience, and he estimated that at least that proportion of materials science students have internships, many of which are overseas placements.

In the senior year, students take a project-based materials design course that taps into the department’s many ties to local industry. For example, engineers from Agilent Technologies have been co-instructors of the course. In recent years, seniors have worked on contemporary problems like lead-free solders and glass-to-metal seals, sometimes with publishable outcomes.

Risbud says most of the department’s BS graduates enter the workforce after graduation, finding positions in the region’s local economy. Thus, exposure to so many real-world experiences is important preparation for a well-rounded engineer.

The department’s influence reaches into many materials science undergraduate curricula through Shackleford’s textbook, Introduction to Materials Science for Engineers,” now in its 7th edition. The book is well-regarded by professors, and seems to well received by students, including one who made this comment on amazon.com, “This is a nice textbook disguised as a coffee-table style book … Good definitions, big bright pictures and interesting text make this an enjoyable book to read and study.”

Professors engaged in research on ceramic materials include Shackleford, Sabyasachi Sen, Denise Krol, Julie Schoenung, Nigel Browning and Risbud.


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2 Responses to Materials Football Game of the Week: University of California, Davis at Arizona State University

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