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MS&T’11 plenary session features NSF director, Nobel Prize winner

Here’s a plug for a great event coming up in just about a month. The  Materials, Science and Technology 2011 Conference & Exhibition will host an outstanding plenary session, “Grasping Excellence: Opportunities for Science and Engineering Research, Education and Workforce Development in the United States,” featuring presentations for four of the top names in US science/technology policy and leadership: Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation, Carl E. Wieman, associate director for science of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, Jeffrey Wadsworth, president and CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, and Alton D. Romig Jr., vice president and general manager of advanced development programs of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. (A question and answer session will follow the individual presentations.)

This plenary session will take place on the first day of MS&T’11, which is Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 and will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The venue for the plenary is the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

The four speakers represent a wealth of technical knowledge and academic, corporate and governmental experience. Their presentations concern many of the most pressing issues in today’s scientific community, including fostering continual innovation, improving science education, and answering energy, environmental and security challenges.

“Developing and maintaining a highly educated workforce is critical to the future of the US, ” says David Matlock, professor, Colorado School of Mines and chair, Plenary Session Organizing Committee. “This unique program brings together individuals keenly knowledgeable on the current issues in engineering research and education and on the opportunities for future advances in materials science and technology.”

Suresh will discuss the challenges that lay ahead for materials scientists in the US in “Innovation Ecosystems: Where Do We Go From Here?” These challenges have long-term consequences for the vitality of American enterprise and quality of life. The concept of an innovation ecosystem provides a bridge for people, institutions and enterprises providing an opportunity for innovation to emerge. Suresh previously served as dean of the Engineering School and Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the MIT.

“Taking a Scientific Approach to Learning and Teaching STEM” is the title of Wieman’s presentation. He notes that science has advanced rapidly in the past 500 years, guided by experimental tests of theory and practice. Tradition and dogma have contributed to keeping science education largely medieval. The presentation concerns the failure of traditional science educational practices, even as used by very good teachers, and the success of new practices and technology. Wieman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics (2001) for the creation of a new form of matter known as Bose-Einstein condensation, as well as numerous national teaching awards, including the NSF’s Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award.

Wadsworth’s presentation, “Responding to Increasing, Energy, Environmental, Health and National Security Challenges—Investment, Policy and Talent Issues,” involves the response to the challenges of energy usage in environmental, health and national security arenas. As the leader of Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit R&D organization, Wadsworth will offer insight into improving the current talent source to meet future US needs. He has worked at Stanford, Lockheed Martin, and Lawrence Livermore National Lab before joining Battelle in 2002 as part of the White House Transition Planning Office for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The rich and varied tradition of invention is a cornerstone of the “American Dream.” However, it is a widely held belief that US technological superiority will recede in the 21st Century. Romig will discuss the opportunity this technological crisis is creating in the aerospace and defense sectors in his “Challenges in Aerospace and Defense” presentation. Prior to leading Skunk Works, Romig spent more than 30 years with Sandia National Labs in support of programs in military technology, homeland security and energy programs.

Through MS&T’11, five societies—The American Ceramic Society, the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, ASM International , The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society, and NACE International —bring together scientists, engineers, students, policy makers, suppliers and more to discuss current research and technical applications, and to shape the future of materials science and technology.

Whether just starting a career in materials science or seasoned professional, MS&T offers an unmatched opportunity to network and learn.