Greetings from UVA DMSE!
I hope you are all in good health and high spirits. I can’t deny that the fall semester looks and feels different. We face unprecedented—and unifying—challenges.
The momentum gained in the past several years has carried our department through these tough times. Two of our rising stars, Liheng Cai and Kyusang Lee, earned NSF CAREER Awards. Two others, Prasanna Balachandran and Jon Ihlefeld, earned DARPA Young Faculty Awards. Altogether, we have welcomed 12 new faculty since 2016, including several joint hires.
We pulled together in response to the COVID-19 crisis. I am extremely proud of the department’s staff, students and faculty for their dedication to safety and careful attention to social distancing. We restarted graduate research operations in June and are more than delighted to report that there have been no infections transmitted in our labs. This is a wonderful accomplishment considering we support a complex, vibrant research community that reaches across five departments, including our own.
The Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility has developed innovative microscope training approaches that comply with social distancing. Lab staff combined pre-recorded tutorials with live, hands-on Zoom sessions to ensure our students and partners can conduct experiments confidently and productively.
Our new B.S. degree program in materials science and engineering gives us a fresh burst of energy. We have begun recruiting our inaugural class of students for spring 2021. Special thanks to James Fitz-Gerald, professor of materials science and engineering and director of undergraduate programs, and Claire Culver, undergraduate student coordinator, as well as the many dedicated faculty who championed and realized this long-sought goal.
Program approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia continues the evolution of UVA Engineering’s undergraduate materials science and engineering curriculum. The new program builds on the minor introduced in 1995 and a concentration within the engineering science major introduced in 2008. The B.S. degree program will preserve and expand on the diversity of students who matriculated in the engineering science program. As many as 25-50% of the students from year to year come to us from under-served backgrounds. This is an accomplishment we cherish and strive to replicate.
The Black Lives Matter movement reminds us how far we have to go, prompting deeper introspection and broader engagement. As members of UVA Engineering, we hold excellence through diversity as a core value. We have expanded our department’s diversity, equity and inclusion committee to put that value into action. The committee has established its mission and addresses issues through defined subcommittees.
Thanks to David Green, associate professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering, we are deepening our engagement with historically Black colleges and universities, including one seeking to establish an MSE program! We look forward to great things from our diversity committee, including its critically important student and staff members.
Our recent graduates and students continue to serve as our ambassadors. I am pleased to share highlights of their published research, fellowships and honors. Additionally, our inaugural class of Olsen Ph.D. fellows started in our graduate program thanks to a generous gift from Greg Olsen (Ph.D., 1971). We look forward to more great news to share in the months ahead.
I remain deeply humbled by the resiliency and resolve of everyone in our department, and I am immensely grateful to our extended family of students, research partners and alumni for their support. Please join me in recognizing their many accomplishments to create and disseminate knowledge and prepare engineering leaders to solve global challenges.
John R. Scully