The New School of Advanced Materials Discovery

Colorado State University’s dynamic and extensive materials and manufacturing research is only magnified by today’s heightened interest in advanced materials solutions that significantly impact basic human needs such as energy, transportation, health, food distribution, and more. Engaging students in this expanding field through a new and exciting program is the shared vision of chemistry professor and director of CSU’s new School of Advanced Materials Discovery, Dr. Ellen Fisher, and a steering committee that includes mechanical engineering Department Head Sue James, and materials-focused, mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Troy Holland. The SAMD is on schedule to complete the final approval hurdles in the upcoming academic year and plans to admit only graduate students in fall 2016. The planned offerings include M.E., M.S., and Ph.D. programs in materials science and engineering.

The demand for this new program couldn’t have come at a better time. CSU has a strong cohort of faculty conducting materials and manufacturing research; at least 60 CSU faculty members have identified interests in materials research and education. In a recent faculty survey, nearly all expressed strong interest in the SAMD and in mentoring the SAMD students. Students were also surveyed, and a majority of undergraduates noted that they would consider this multidisciplinary graduate program, and the lion’s share of graduate students noted they “definitely” or “probably” would’ve been interested in the program when they applied to CSU. Industry partners have also shown interest in hiring CSU M.S.E. graduates. A majority of partners surveyed anticipate M.S.E. positions being available in the next five years.

There are currently 90 doctoral materials programs in the country, two of which reside in Colorado – the Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Colorado Boulder. Even so, the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions don’t offer a program with the SAMD’s focus. Distinct program elements include training in materials computational tools, additional hands-on training with materials instrumentation, specific instruction in materials intellectual property and technology transfer innovation, and professional development. The program will also offer students a composites manufacturing lab and the benefits of industry partnerships and internships. The program will focus on 11 research areas, including areas of current strength for CSU’s materials community such as soft materials, materials for energy and sustainability, nanomaterials, biomaterials, and composites.

Notably, materials and manufacturing research within the mechanical engineering department is advancing at a rapid pace. Dr. W.S. Sampath is making huge strides in the field of photovoltaics at one of CSU’s research facilities; Dr. Don Radford was recently selected for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation grant for his research in fiber-reinforced wind turbines; and Dr. Troy Holland recently ramped up his research by initiating his own lab, the Advanced Materials Processing and Testing Lab. The advent of the SAMD initiative will undoubtedly further advance these efforts and raise the visibility of our materials researchers’ innovations.