Student perspectives on ceramic and materials education | The American Ceramic Society

Student perspectives on ceramic and materials education

What’s on minds of the current group of ceramic and materials science students? The American Ceramic Society wanted to know, so we recruited the ACerS President’s Council of Student Advisors to organize the first student-edited issue of the Society’s Bulletin membership magazine.

They did a great job! This issue of the Bulletin – now available in print and online – contains insightful, student-written articles that cover an impressive array of their concerns and advice. The topics include:

  • Choosing between getting a job or going to grad school
  • Studying science abroad
  • The difference between M.S. and Ph.D degree paths
  • Graduate school research
  • Undergraduate publishing opportunities
  • Choosing between interdisciplinary programs versus and specialty programs

The issue also provides outstanding samples of current student research efforts.

The only feature stories not written by students is a report by ACerS member Ed Sabolsky describing the successful efforts tat launching West Virginia’s first materials science and engineering program, and a column from two advisors to ACerS student programs, Geoff Brennecka and Bil Fahrenholtz, who discuss the evolution of the strategies within the Society to engage and support students and young professionals.

Kudos to PSCA and especially to Eric Patterson, the council’s communications chair, for recruiting and managing the student authors. Thanks also to Tricial Nicol, ACerS staff student liaison, and Ann Spence, assistant Bulletin editor, for providing encouragement and advice to the PCSA editorial group.

Continuing on the education theme, I also want to recommend a story on the Berkeley Lab’s website that underscores the importance to introducing materials science in high schools, and, in particular, through summer internships for high school students, such as LBL’s Nano*High program:

Emily Chen still vividly remembers the lecture on gecko feet. She was an eighth grader attending Berkeley Lab’s Nano*High program to hear materials scientist Arun Majumdar explain how what he was learning about gecko feet might translate into a new adhesive product based on carbon nanotubes.

“It never occurred to me how much we look to nature to do things in science,” Chen says. “It was also my first encounter with materials science; he talked a little about other fields in materials science, and what he does, like studying breakage, and it never really occurred to me that people did that.”

Majumdar, then a Berkeley Lab senior scientist, went on to become director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), but perhaps more remarkably, Chen went on to graduate high school while attending almost every single Saturday morning lecture of the Nano*High program, then decided to attend MIT, where she declared a major in materials science and engineering.