Greetings from Charlottesville!
We hope that your spring has been as healthy and productive as ours here at the University of Virginia.
We emerged from COVID-19 restrictions with a safe and sound group of MSE students, staff and faculty, with few infections and no hospitalizations. This was quite a team pulling all together!
In May we welcomed an external review committee of MSE luminaries from around the nation who provided a highly beneficial peer assessment of our MSE program. I am heartened by their recognition of our key strengths, including our culture of collegiality and collaboration; our strong research portfolio in electrochemistry / corrosion and structural materials including light-weight metals, ceramics for extreme environments, as well as our nanoscale materials characterization facilities. Please take a moment to learn more about the impact of our work in our June 2021 e-newsletter, especially our contributions to three Multi-University Research Initiatives funded by the Office of Naval Research.
We are also making our mark in computational materials and soft materials. Bi-Cheng Zhou, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has earned a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award to expand use of the CALPHAD method to complex concentrated alloys. Prasanna Balachandran, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering, earned UVA’s Research Excellence Award in recognition of his accomplishments and the future promise of his contributions to materials informatics. Liheng Cai, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering, has developed a novel elastomer applicable as an ink enabling direct-write printing 3D structures, opening new possibilities for 3D-printing human tissue.
We congratulate our colleagues who have earned named professorships in engineering. Endowed Chaired Professors have scholarly achievements at the highest levels. Recognition is marked through archival scholarly publications, international awards, invited lectures, and by peer scientists. Seminal accomplishments in new and emerging technologies, as well as other scholarly contributions, are also recognized.
- Sean Agnew, professor of materials science and engineering, is named William G. Reynolds Professor of Materials Science to guide our program in aluminum alloy research. A preeminent scholar, educator and thought leader in light alloy research including magnesium and aluminum alloys, Agnew is one of the world's leading mechanical metallurgists in light alloys and nuclear materials.
- James T. Burns, associate professor of materials science and engineering, is named the Heinz and Doris Wilsdorf Distinguished Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, held by a rising star and eminent University scholar. Burns is an international leader in corrosion science, leads an exemplary research group and is at the forefront of all the important issues, challenges and test methods associated with corrosion fatigue and fracture.
- Elizabeth J. Opila, professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering, is named the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor in Engineering to enhance research and curriculum in areas of interest to Rolls-Royce and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Opila has led the Rolls-Royce University Technology Center in Advanced Materials Systems at UVA Engineering since 2014—one of only three centers in the United States.
I credit our students for the many advances produced by our research teams and am pleased by the continued growth of our academic programs. We have thus far recruited nearly 20 new graduate students for the fall semester and launched the careers of nine Ph.D.s, one engineering physics Ph.D., three students who earned a Master of Science in materials science and engineering, and three others who earned a Master of Materials Science and Engineering degree.
I am also thrilled by the robust interest in our Bachelor of Science degree program, which UVA announced last spring. Eighteen undergraduates joined our department as second-, third- and fourth-year majors, 10 of whom have earned Olsen scholarships.
I am proud of all our majors and the bar set by those who earned this year’s awards for outstanding academic performance, leadership, collaboration and service. I invite you to watch our awards program and learn more about the students we recognized during our virtual celebration for the class of 2021.
The external review committee recognized an additional strength of our department—our engaged and supportive alumni, including Gayle Schueller (Ph.D. ’92). Gayle is Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at 3M. She addressed our 2021 graduates. Another alum, Jill Ferguson (B.S. in engineering science ’17), was named a Stanford University Knight-Hennessy Scholar.
This spring’s milestones and achievements are a credit to the capabilities, resilience and optimism of our entire MSE community. I am confident that we will have more good news to share in the months and year ahead. On behalf of the entire UVA Materials Science and Engineering community, have a safe and enjoyable summer.
John R. Scully