These are exciting times for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). In August 2004, we hired five faculty members with a range of expertise including ceramics, photonics, and nanomaterials. Our existing faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare space and provide resources for the new faculty. Two of the new members, Levon Asryan and Yu Wang, are heavily involved in computational materials science and will take advantage of Virginia Tech's supercomputer, System X, which is ranked among the fastest in the world. They will join Professor Diana Farkas, already a renowned researcher in the area of simulation of fracture and diffusion, and others within the engineering and science faculty in a “computational materials science cluster.” In addition to broadening the department's research directions, these faculty will strengthen the computational components of the graduate and undergraduate curricula. Gary Pickrell and Kathy Lu are experimentalists and will apply their expertise in ceramics and nanomaterials to the development of sensors, fuel cells and photonic devices. Kathryn Logan, hired as the NASA Langley Professor, will coordinate research and education activities between Virginia Tech and the new National Institute of Aerospace (NIA). Professor Logan is a past president of the American Ceramic Society and the National Institute of Ceramic Engineers. She is also a Fellow in both of these professional organizations. It is a rare opportunity for an MSE department to be able to hire five new tenure-track faculty in one season, and we are grateful for the confidence and support provided by the College of Engineering. These new hires move us a large step forward toward our goal of 19 full-time faculty.

Within five years, we expect the AMCF to house approximately $12M in research equipment.

MSE is playing a major role in the new Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS). The Institute (pg. 7) will provide infrastructure and space to further synergistic research between engineering and the sciences. When fully operational, ICTAS will occupy several buildings, one of which will be located behind Holden Hall, the present home of MSE. Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials are among the focus areas for the Institute. Under the leadership of Professors Carlos Suchicital and Bill Reynolds, MSE has designed an advanced materials Characterization Facility (AMCF) that will occupy about 15,000 ft2 in a new building at the Corporate Research Center (CRC). The University has already provided $3.2M to purchase a state-of-the-art TEM and an ion microprobe. Within five years, we expect the AMCF to house approximately $12M in research equipment. In addition to pulling together the diverse materials community across the university, ICTAS will attract top-notch faculty and graduate students to Virginia Tech.

Our goal is 95 graduate students, producing about 15-20 Ph.D. degrees per year.

Each fall, MSE hosts an open house for freshmen as they attempt to select a home department. This year, over 400 students attended a well-organized program consisting of demonstrations, information sessions, and refreshments. Through recruiting events such as this, we expect to reach our goal of about 100 undergraduate students. The department is grateful to Alex Aning, Chair of the Recruiting Committee, Jan Doran, the Undergraduate Program Services Coordinator, and the student-run Materials Engineering Professional Societies (MEPS) for organizing and running this event.

Molten stainless steel
Molten stainless steel is poured into the top of an investment casting. Students watched this as part of a foundry tour hosted by Conbraco.
2D phase-field computer simulation
A 2-dimensional phase-field computer simulation, by Todd Heil, of the martensitic microstructure in a polycrystalline Fe - 31at% Ni alloy. Red and green regions possess the same martensitic crystal structure, but have different orientations.
MSE students with David Clark
David Clark with a group of MSE students at the American Ceramic Society annual conference in Baltimore, MD, Spring 2005.

At its September 2004 meeting, the MSE Advisory Board considered a variety of new initiatives, provided input towards the continuing improvement of program quality, and discussed ways to promote the growth of the graduate program. In the latter regard, our goal is a program with approximately 95 graduate students, producing about 15-20 Ph.D. degrees per year. A major obstacle in achieving this goal is shrinking federal and state government support of basic research. In the future, we will have to rely more on industrial support, fellowships, endowments, and fund-raising activities. Thus it is appropriate that this first issue of the Journal of Undergraduate Materials Research is dedicated to Alf Knobler, an alumnus who has donated substantial funds to Virginia Tech.

Alf was one of the first to bridge engineering principles with artistic design.

Alf graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Ceramic Engineering (now part of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering) from Virginia Tech in 1938. He purchased Tri-State Glass Manufacturing Company, located in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1949, which became Pilgrim Glass. In 1956, he moved the facility to Ceredo, West Virginia. A wide array of artistic glasses (e.g. cameos and cranberry) were manufactured for over 50 years (see cover). Alf was one of the first to bridge engineering principles with artistic design. In addition to being a visionary in ceramics and glasses, he has a wide range of interests in literature, poetry, history, politics, and diversity. He recently established the Knobler Scholars Program (pg. 9) to support graduate students in the Departments of English and Materials Science and Engineering. In addition to providing financial support to students from both departments, this program has several cooperative projects such as this student journal and the annual Knobler Summits, which feature a world renowned lecturer. This cooperation has also strengthened an already strong communications program in MSE. Indeed, this program represents the true spirit of a university!

David Clark
Professor and Head
Dept. of MSE
Virginia Tech