Materials Education Symposia - Home

April 12-13, 2012


Cambridge 2012 Speaker Abstracts

Click on the title to jump to the abstract...

Speaker Institution Title
Prof Mike Ashby University of Cambridge, UK Materials education: adapting to needs of the 21st Century
Dr Frank Stefan Becker Siemens AG ZVEI (German Association of Electrical Industry), Germany Education and Industry
Prof Jens Bergström Karlstad University, Sweden Material selection in the engineering design process
Dr Tim Bullough University of Liverpool, UK The teaching of Materials in UK Universities
Prof Bill Clyne University of Cambridge, UK Practical Demonstrations in Materials Lectures – Worth the Effort?
Prof. David Delafosse Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, France Introducing Industrial Design in Engineering students’ curriculum at Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne
Prof David Embury McMaster University, Canada Some Impressions of Education in Materials Science in China
Prof Anselm Griffin Georgia Institute of Technology, USA Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech: a new Curriculum for a new School
Dr Mervyn Jones Imperial College London, UK The Global Engineer
Dr Bryan Magee Queen's University Belfast, UK Integrating academic and professional qualification pathways to foster industry-savvy students
Dr Mark Miodownik Mechanical Engineering Department, University College London, UK The Role of Materials in a University
Prof Anke Nellesen Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Germany Tackling sustainability issues in Polymer science education
Prof Mariapia Pedeferri Politecnico di Milano, Italy The Teaching of material science at the Design School of Politecnico di Milano
Prof Michel Rappaz Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland Recruitment and motivation of 1st year materials students at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Prof. Ignacio Rintoul Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina A fresh start in materials education and current challenges for materials science and technology education in South America
Dr Artemis Stamboulis University of Birmingham, UK Discovering the thresholds in materials education
Dr David Steele University of South Australia The Preparation and Initial Delivery of an Online Undergraduate Engineering Materials Unit
Prof Sybrand van der Zwaag Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands Teaching Materials Science to Engineering students in the Netherlands
Dr Joost Vogtländer Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands The Eco-costs/Value Ratio for quantitative, LCA based, combined assessment of the P of Planet and the P of Prosperity
Dr Cyrus Wadia The White House, USA The National Materials Genome Initiative: A White House Led Initiative to Accelerate Advanced Materials into Practice
Prof Alexander Wanner Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany An interactive learning approach to scientific reading and writing

Full program »

Thursday, April 12

Day One, 9.05 am

Practical Demonstrations in Materials Lectures – Worth the Effort?

T. W. Clyne
University of Cambridge, UK

Being an inherently diverse discipline, materials science and engineering is very well suited for practical illustration of various phenomena, ranging from fundamentals of inter-atomic forces to operation of a rolling mill. Of course, practical work can be incorporated into teaching in the form of experiments undertaken by the students, with scope for useful experience being gained in data handling, manipulative skills, independent exploration of the effect of variables etc. However, an alternative (complementary) format is for short practical demonstrations to be undertaken during lectures. Among the potential advantages of this are:

  • It can illustrate a specific point immediately after (or before) it is covered in the lecture
  • The lecturer can draw attention to important aspects of what is being seen
  • It can provide a welcome break within a lecture
  • Even if it doesn’t “work”, there is usually some entertainment value, and likelihood of it being remembered

In designing a lecture demonstration, there are a few guidelines that should be followed:

  • It should be relatively short—perhaps up to about 10 minutes
  • Interactivity is helpful—the involvement of volunteers, audience “voting” etc usually enhances the value
  • There must be a genuine scientific point or two involved, which the demonstration does actually illustrate
  • It’s useful, although obviously not essential, if quantification of some sort can be incorporated
  • The students must be able to see what is going on—of course, cameras, projectors etc can often be used
  • It’s important to cover the “practicalities”—logistics, robustness, safety aspects etc

This talk will largely be composed of three practical demonstrations (thus contravening completely the idea of a welcome break in a lecture and certainly raising the risk of some sort of cock-up). These have all been developed recently for a first year course on mechanical behaviour. Hopefully they illustrate some of the above points. They are:

  • Thermal contraction of bi-material strips (requiring liquid nitrogen, which goes down well even if all else fails)
  • Thermally (hair dryer)—induced phase transformation, generating shape recovery after superelastic deformation
  • Stable and unstable crack growth in a brittle material, illustrated using inflated (cylindrical) rubber balloons


Day One, 9.40 am

Recruitment and motivation of 1st year materials students
at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne


M. Rappaz*, H.-A. Klok, A. Mortensen , P. Di Napoli, and H. Sunderland

Section des matériaux, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

* corresponding author

The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) curriculum of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) was created in 1974, making it one of Europe’s oldest of its kind. Until the end of the nineties, however, it was attended by a fairly low number of students. This has changed, largely as a result of a major promotion effort that was initiated over the past decade to promote the MSE field to secondary school students, a necessity at EPFL since incoming undergraduate students choose their department from the very start of their studies.

Among the main initiatives that were undertaken, some were aimed at secondary school students directly, others were more indirect. Among the latter has been a seminar series for secondary school teachers of Physics and Chemistry presenting typical (and attractive) materials topics that the teachers can subsequently use in class, in turn introducing the discipline to their students. Other initiatives were directly aimed at secondary school students themselves; these have included: (i) coaching and an award for secondary school projects done on materials, (ii) a complete redesign of the EPFL materials teaching website to include attractive visual material on the use, importance and engineering of materials in everyday life, and (iii) the design and organisation of materials-focused temporary exhibits, one in a museum for children, another in the Olympic museum in Lausanne (which has, since, been shown elsewhere). At the same time, while making it “Bologna-compatible”, the EPFL MSE course program was remodelled with the creation of four orientations at the Master’s level designed to bring out more clearly the usage and application of materials (following the concept of “materials for…”).

In parallel to these initiatives, the 1st year course “Introduction to materials” was extended to all students of EPFL’s School of Engineering (about 450). This course, which is heavily based on the latest book of M. Ashby et al. (Materials: Engineering science, processing and design), is taught twice every year, i.e., to Mechanics and Materials students during the Fall semester, and to Electricity and Microengineering students during the Spring semester. Besides the course and exercises, examples and movies together with small experiments are presented in class, as are Ashby materials property maps. This course helps motivating students for the field of materials and indirectly contributes to increasing the number of registered students in following years.

Thanks to these multiple and sustained efforts, the number of 1st year MSE students at EPFL has increased from about 28 in 2001 to 77 in 2011. This presentation will give a rapid overview of these materials promotion initiatives taken at EPFL, and will present the current materials program offered to engineering students in general, focusing on the general 1st year course offering.


Day One, 10.05 am

The Preparation and Initial Delivery of an
Online Undergraduate Engineering Materials Unit

D. Steele*, D. Evans, A. Lonie, A. Michelmore, and L. Smith

Mawson Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.

* corresponding author

In the final quarter of 2010, Open Universities Australia accepted a proposal from the University of South Australia to host a Graduate Diploma of Engineering course comprising of 25 units. Our task was to prepare a first year level unit on the fundamentals of engineering materials which would be suitable for delivery online. The content of the unit would mirror that of the course currently delivered on-campus using traditional face-to-face lectures, tutorials and practical sessions.

The online unit developed comprises of audiovisual asynchronous lecture summaries, additional web-based resources, discussion and support forums and bi-weekly synchronous tutorial sessions. Student assessment is conducted using a series of time-limited quizzes, web-based practical assignments, the group preparation of an ePoster and a final examination. I will outline the process, organisation and preparation of the online teaching resources undertaken over a six month period in 2011 by a team comprising of materials educators, researchers and professional staff members of the University’s learning and teaching unit. I will also provide a personal commentary on the process highlighting some of the difficulties managed.

My presentation will close with some of the initial observations and experiences on the inaugural delivery of this unit in 2012. In addition I will identify how these experiences and teaching materials and practices developed have subsequently been adopted to ensure the maintenance of best practice teaching on-campus.


Day One, 11.05 am

The Global Engineer

M.E. Jones

Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Imperial College London [email protected]

Throughout history scientists and engineers have played an important—although sometimes unsung role—in the development of society. Today they have unique roles to play in addressing problems requiring global solutions, in a world that is increasingly inter-connected and instantaneous. Globalisation and other changes place increased emphasis on the requirement for non-technical engineering competences. In a global context what are these and how should today’s societal requirements be reflected in engineering education? Although these competencies are vital, the development of the unique skill sets of scientists and engineers—the essence of their profession—must not be neglected. Are we setting impossible educational objectives and timescales? What is the impact for engineering education when both the workplace and the competition are global? It is suggested that to ‘square this circle’ a longer educational view must be taken. As part of this analysis examples will be given of activities beyond the lecture theatre that help facilitate the development of globally appreciated competences.

To add to the many changes and challenges confronting higher education today, especially in those subjects requiring quantitative expertise, international comparisons are increasingly made with ranking indices being applied to the sector. Universities are complex institutions and it is suggested that these indices are both far too simplistic and have the potential to be counter productive with a distorting effect on the development of effective education. Reference will be made to these limitations and it is suggested that it is far more important that thought should be given to establishing appropriate teaching strategies in the engineering departments of a university, which should be based on careful reflection of a range of issues, much more profound than those of ranking.


Day One, 11.40 am

Discovering the thresholds in materials education

Z. Jaffer1, J. Fill2, S. Male3, K. Quinlan2, A. Stamboulis1*, C. Davis1 and C. Baillie3

1. University of Birmingham (UB), School of Metallurgy and Materials, Birmingham, UK

2. University of Oxford (UO), Department of Education, Oxford, UK

3.University of Western Australia (UWA), School of Environmental Systems Engineering, Australia

* corresponding author

Threshold concepts were developed from a UK national project, which focused on student learning in different disciplinary areas. Meyer and Land (2005) realised that certain concepts central to the discipline would open up required systems and “ways of thinking” yet were troublesome for students. Meyer and Land (2006) suggest that the learners may be left in a state of liminality (Latin ‘limen’- a threshold). Liminality is a suspended state in which ‘understanding’ falsely approximates to a kind of mimicry. Identifying the threshold concepts can help with curriculum design by focusing students attention on the most troublesome and yet transformatory areas. Understanding why these concepts are threshold can assist with designing teaching methods and assessment approaches. 

This paper develops the work of threshold concepts in 1st year engineering combining the results of research programmes in three institutions UB (Materials engineering), UO and the UWA (Materials is a common module in UWA’s engineering programme). Research at UB and UO is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering (HE STEM) and the UWA by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to develop the methodology for exploring thresholds, identifying thresholds and bringing these into curriculum design where possible. The three universities shared and compared the initial results of their studies following an approach recommended by Erik Meyer, one of the founders of Threshold Concept theory whose experience with the disciplines of economics and computer science suggested that after preliminary investigations of concepts a crucial stage is the debate and discussion of such concepts at disciplinary community level.

In this paper, we will present the emerging methodologies developed by the team demonstrating the way that they collected data using interviews, focus groups and workshops and how they analysed data using concept mapping tools. We will also focus on the materials concepts discovered during the research within each institution noting areas of overlap and considering differences and the potential reasons for these. We will particularly invite debate, discussion and feedback by members of the materials education research community at this conference.


Day One, 2.05 pm

The National Materials Genome Initiative:
A White House Led Initiative to Accelerate
Advanced Materials into Practice

C. Wadia
Assistant Director, Clean Energy and Materials R&D, The White House

Dr. Wadia, Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Materials R&D at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will discuss the Materials Genome Initiative. This Initiative was launched by President Obama in June of 2011 to address the long timeframes for incorporating advanced materials into practice. It is an effort that will: (1) create a new materials-innovation infrastructure, (2) drive achievement of national goals with advanced materials and (3) prepare the next-generation materials workforce. This initiative offers a unique opportunity for the United States to discover, develop, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials at least twice as fast as possible today at a fraction of the cost. Dr. Wadia will describe the Interagency and White House roles in delivering this vision and plot a path forward for execution across all stakeholders. He will also explore the possibilities of International cooperation on the Initiative in areas of education, computation, data informatics and foundational material problems.


Day One, 2.40 pm

Education and Industry

F. S. Becker

Corporate Communications and Government Affairs,
Global Coordination and People Development, Siemens AG, Germany

For an international company like Siemens, universities are important partners in two areas: In R&D, where we have agreements with more than 600 universities, and in recruiting: Of the 74 400 employees hired in 2011, 38% had a university degree, 21% in a scientific or technical major.

As universities and companies have different goals (generation of new knowledge versus earning money) as well as career paths (public service and lifelong specialisation versus promotion by being successful in different tasks), the mentalities, expectations and strategies of both organizations are different by nature. Therefore, Siemens has established a wide range of cooperation programs to bridge that gap, work on fields of common interest, exchange know-how and foster the mutual understanding. The presentation will highlight some of these activities that address faculty as well as students and include the active involvement in professional organizations (e.g. Association of German Engineers, VDI) international ones (e.g. SEFI), participation in conferences and advisory boards. The overarching goal in the area of education is to motivate young people to study a technical/scientific major, to prevent them from dropping out and to help them acquire the skills and competences important for their later professional life.


Day One, 3.15 pm

Integrating academic and professional qualification
pathways to foster industry-savvy students

B. J. Magee*, P. A. M. Basheer, P. C. Hewlett, and A. E. Long.

School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, U.K.

* corresponding author

Concrete, a material too frequently misinterpreted by construction professionals as a simplistic commodity and by many students as a subject as dull as its colour, is in reality a unique, complex and intriguing construction material. Utilised by arguably every construction project worldwide, it is unrivalled it terms of its range of engineering solutions and the depth of material science knowledge required to optimise its application. Despite its complexity and fundamental role in delivering a sustainable built environment, university students receive very limited practically-orientated teaching in concrete technology and construction-related topics. It is widely acknowledged that this knowledge-gap is detrimental to both the short- and long-term performance of engineering structures and the reputation of the construction industry, which for too long has been tolerant of underperformance, unprofessionalism and a lack of education/training in relation to this essential material.

Against this background, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) has embarked on an innovative approach to teaching by integrating into its under- and post-graduate pathways an industry-focussed, four‐stage professional qualification framework administered by the Institute of Concrete Technology (ICT). Phased in over a three-year period will be a suite of new modules and courses designed to deliver essential, industry-focussed fundamental and practical knowledge at a range of competency levels. All courses will meet learning objectives written by ICT to define desired levels of professional competency and link directly to attainment of its professionally qualified membership grades. With relevance of content ensured via continual input from industry experts and delivery via flexible distance and e-learning methods, the aim of this unique materials-focussed academically/professionally accredited education pathway is to encourage widespread involvement by both students and industrial participants.

Provided in this paper will be a comprehensive overview of the education strategy developed, the academic-industry partnerships involved, the modules currently being offered and the development stages undertaken. Positive feedback will be provided from a student perspective, in terms of the enhanced employability opportunities offered, and from an industry perspective, in terms of the development of key skills sets. Ongoing successes regarding an internationalisation strategy for this materials teaching approach will also be discussed.


Day One, 4.05 pm

An interactive learning approach to scientific reading and writing

A. Wanner

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute for Applied Materials, Karlsruhe, Germany

[email protected]

First and second year engineering students are quite familiar with scientific textbooks, lecture scripts and handouts, and with whatever they find easily on the internet using ubiquitous tools like google and wikipedia. However, they are little aware of the existence, value and usefulness of original scientific literature and the ways scientific publications are structured, archived, searched, and given reference to. In this talk, an interactive learning approach is presented, aimed at getting the students more acquainted with original scientific literature, in particular in the field of materials science and engineering. Provided with newsflashs on spectacular findings from current materials research, the students are assigned the task to dig out background information which can only be found in the related original work. This way the students are introduced hands-on into the use of databases for scientific publications and become aware of the importance of meaningful and brief titles and a concise abstracts. A sportful writing exercise is a title-and-abstract contest paced at the end of the course: Provided with the recommendations on titles and abstracts given in Michael Ashby’s classic paper on “How to write a Paper” [1], the students are asked to add a title and abstract to a given short manuscript. The proposed titles and abstracts are reviewed and rated by their peers. Throughout the course, the multifaceted communication between lecturer, student and peers is supported by the internet-based learning management system “ILIAS” [2], allowing to apply this approach to large classes.

[1]          M.F. Ashby, How to Write a Paper; Engineering Department, University of Cambridge, Cambridge 6th Edition, April 2005;

[2]          ILIAS Open Source Learning Management System by ILIAS open source e-Learning e.V., Cologne, Germany,


Day One, 4.40pm

The Eco-costs/Value Ratio for quantitative, LCA based, combined assessment of the
P of Planet and the P of Prosperity

J. Vogtländer

Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.

The ever growing economy seems to be one of the major root-causes of the continuing deterioration of our environment. The question is: what can be done? Stopping the economic growth seems no realistic option, so the solution must be found in a better eco-efficiency of our systems for production and consumption (“de-linking of economy and ecology”). Future products and services need to have a high value/costs ratio combined with a low burden for our environment.

A LCA (Life Cycle Analyses) based model has been developed to assess the eco-efficiency of products and services: the model of the Eco-costs/Value Ratio, in short EVR.

The basic idea of the EVR model is to link the ‘value chain’ of Porter to the ecological ‘product chain’. In the value chain, the added value (in terms of money) and the added costs are determined for each step of the product ‘from cradle to grave’. Similarly, the ecological impact of each step in the product chain is expressed in terms of money, the so-called  ‘eco-costs’.

The ratio of ´eco-cost´ and ´value´ is defined in each step in the chain as:

EVR = eco-costs / value

The eco-costs have been defined in terms of marginal prevention costs (´end of pipe´ as well as ´system integrated´) for pollution and materials depletion. The eco-costs are ‘virtual’ costs: these costs are related to measures which have to be taken to reduce pollution to the ‘No Effect Level’.

The value in the model is the market value: the ´fair price´ as perceived by customers.

The advantage of using value in the definition of eco-efficiency (instead of using costs) is that the consumer behaviour is incorporated in the model. This paper shows examples of ‘eco-efficient value creation’: design of green products and services that will thrive in our free market economy because they have a good value for the consumers.

It is shown how the selection of the right materials is one of the key issues in this ‘eco-efficient value creation’ of product design.

Web page:


Day One, 5.05 pm

Material selection in the engineering design process

M. Jacobsson, J. Bergström*, and L. Jacobsson

Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Karlstad University, Sweden.

* corresponding author

Teaching materials engineering and mechanical engineering in the engineering university study programs have often been separated. The new concepts of material selection support teaching the context around the engineering design process. The materials selection concept is used in direct materials selection courses, in engineering design courses, in integrated product development courses and in engineering thesis works. Here, we will focus on the implementation and performance of the concept in the engineering design courses (and integrated product development), and the role of the material selection in context of the design process (product specification, function analysis, concept generation and selection, layout design and drawing, design calculation, material selection, manufacturing method selection, detailed product spec, final report). Enterprises have been active partners in the courses, as they delivered engineering problem formulations, and asked for solutions. Underway, the companies supported students with info on demand.

It was found that the student focused more on the construction, shaping, of the product rather than of the material aspects. However, compared to earlier performances of such courses, an increased awareness of both the material issues and of the relation between design selection and material selection was observed. Even though the courses allowed only a limited time of work for the students, and thus the engineering process was not covered in detail, the integration of company participation and final presentation of solutions to the companies enhanced the pretension, in a stimulating way, of taking part in a real engineering design process.

In today’s engineering professional life an awareness of the context of design and material issues is of paramount necessity. Applying the concept of integrated product development/ engineering process, is a very potent tool in teaching young engineering students, to prepare and offer them professional skills. Also, there is a stimulating effect in both teaching and learning.


Day Two: Friday, April 13

Day Two, 9.05 am

Materials education:
adapting to needs of the 21st Century

M. F. Ashby

Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, U.K.

What are Universities for?  The short answer is: the creation, preservation and transmission of knowledge.  The last of these—transmission—is what this Materials Education symposium is about, but it can’t be divorced from the other two.  This talk is about the transmission of material knowledge in ways that recognize the broader technical, economic and social conditions in which it takes place.

It is important for students to appreciate both the history of our subject and its linking role in modern engineering.  The subject of Materials can trace back its history for at least 4000 years, a history longer than that of any of the other “disciplines” shown in the adjacent Figure.  It evolved from early Metallurgy, which was itself informed by alchemy and by tradition enshrined in folklore.

Today, the subject sits at the intersection of Physics, Chemistry, Geo and Bio Sciences, Environmental Science and Engineering.  The Materials curriculum at many universities touches on all of these.  This breadth is unusual and makes the subject uniquely well-placed to contribute to the solution of many of today’s challenges, particularly

Interdisciplinary thinking that bridges the disciplines shown in the figure, an essential ingredient for innovation from cross-fertilization.

Devising ways in which materials and processes can be made more efficient, less expensive and less environmentally damaging—one of the central challenges in advancing materials in the 21st century.

Thinking creatively about material needs to meet the changing demands of industry in the next 30 years, and in doing so, linking the science to the engineering

Introducing students to the Grand Challenges of our time such as future mobility, clean energy and sustainability, all of which require an approach combining information from several of the disciplines shown in the Figure plus an appreciation of the role of technology in society.

A balanced Materials education today must include both depth, leading to expertise in the subject, and breadth, allowing material issues to be judged in the light of contemporary economic and societal concerns of the present and the future.  This is consistent with the increasingly integrated nature of technical education.  The evolution of materials teaching has followed such a path.  At one time metallurgy, polymer science, and glass and ceramic technology were taught in different Departments, even at different Universities; today they are generally integrated into a single program under the heading of Materials Science or Engineering Materials.  There is now a move beyond this towards what I will call Materials Systems and Design, integrating broader technical, economic, environmental and social issues into an entity. 

The talk will conclude by returning to Grand Challenges, illustrating the way in which they can be introduced, using Sustainability as an example.


Day Two, 9.40 am

Tackling sustainability issues in Polymer science education

A. Nellesen
Bochum University of Applied Sciences, Germany

In the near future it will be essential to acquaint the students of each discipline with related sustainability issues. In materials science this means to teach the students how to calculate the CO2-emissions of a material, how to ensure that resources needed to produce a certain material are big enough and/ or renewable. In polymer science it also is necessary to show different options for the end-of-life for a material: is it reasonable to enhance a material's durability or would it be a good alternative to use a biodegradable material to reduce waste. Another important issue is to discuss not only the basic polymer with the students but also the further chemicals needed to use a certain polymer as these ingredients are sometimes more problematic for the environment than it is the basic polymer.

The lecture will present some examples how to introduce these issues in student's education. It will be shown how to implement tools for life-cycle assessment and how to set up a discussion with the students concerning sustainable development and the resulting consequences for their professional life. Here it is of utmost importance that not only problems are discussed but possible solutions are presented.


Day Two, 10.05 am

Introducing Industrial Design in Engineering students’
curriculum at Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne

D. Delafosse* and J. Faucheu

Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, France

* corresponding author

Holistic approach for intelligent innovation is obtained in integrated design teams by mixing up backgrounds and skills into multidiscipline teams. However, is mixing enough? To go further than a simple addition of skills and create a synergy, the key ingredient is to favour communication and understanding between individuals in the team. Our aim is to impulse the establishment of commons languages and favour constructive interactions between future engineers and designers. Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne tailored a specific 360 hours educational program for engineering students to favour mind opening through a variety of lectures and hand-on activities. It starts with the traditional toolset of engineering design including materials selection methods, and gradually introduces human and cultural factors through lectures, exercises and mini-projects. A first meeting point between design and engineering is explored through lectures and practical sessions on materials sensations and perception engineering. The focus point of the program is a multidiscipline international workshop in design and engineering, gathering students from both areas. The workshop process was monitored on a daily basis and it was demonstrated that significant knowledge transfer and efficient complementarities of skills and methods were occurring, leading to a holistic and user-centred response to the Design brief. Having confronted different methodologies and approaches to innovation, engineering students finally go back to their original posture through a final prototyping workshop, during which their engineering skills are augmented by the variety of viewpoints they experienced. In this communication, we will present the program; focus on specific tools, exercises and sequences developed in this course, and detail significant observations gathered during the last three years at Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne.


Day Two, 11.05 pm

The Role of Materials in a University 

M. Miodownik

Mechanical Engineering Department, University College London, UK

The development of the silicon chip fifty years ago was the materials science innovation that sparked the information technology revolution. Such new materials do more than transform technology, they change behaviour and shape the urban landscape, from our cities, to our hospitals, to our homes, to our art. Thus, materials are a defining characteristic of society: its history, culture and economic welfare. As a result materiality is one of the central themes of study in every university. However in contemporary universities the scientists and engineers involved in making new materials (e.g. physicists, chemists, materials scientists) very rarely get involved with those who study the cultural & environmental significance of materials (e.g. humanities academics and social scientists), and are often further distanced from those who use materials (e.g. nurses, medics, engineers, architects, designers). This has a serious detrimental effect on the teaching culture of universities and their capacity to engage with the wider world, since many of the important issues of contemporary society, such as health, security, climate change and economic sustainability, require a multi-disciplinary approach. This talk describes a project to build a Materials Library and to use the stuff it contains as a material language to engage in a multidisciplinary approach to teaching.


Day Two, 11.40 am

The Teaching of material science at
Design School of Politecnico di Milano

B. Del Curto and M.P. Pedeferri*

Design School, Politecnico di Milano, Italy.

* corresponding author

In the last decade, in Italy, an increasing number of students attend design courses and approaches technical disciplines that since not so far were a prerogative of engineering courses as the science and the technology of materials. It is than mandatory to develop new tools and new methodology of teaching such disciplines to design students.

At the same time the opportunities to have access to information on materials and processes is enormously increased. This huge amount of information represents a great resource, but if not correctly handled can be dispersive and can create confusion.

Aim of this paper is to explain the methodology used in the design course of material science at the Politecnico di Milano and to show some examples of the integrated use of different resources on materials.

At the Design School of Politecnico di Milano the methodology chosen for teaching materials science merges lectures, use of dedicated software and web resources coupled with the access to a materials library where students can experience materials.

Attention is also gived to demonstrate through a historical excursus the deep connection between design, materials and technologies and to underline the importance of knowledge for an aware and innovative design.

During the first part of the course basic knowledge on material science is given to the students; than such contents are developed and studied more in detail using the CES software. These information are coupled with an experiential approach to materials that permits students to appreciate the sensorial properties of the materials touching, smelling and feeling them.

In the material library physical samples collected from different places of origin and catalogued, provide the direct experiencing if materials essential to design students. The material library becomes an ideal place to answer the obvious need for communication among different project cultures, in order to combine the expressive-sensory level with the technical and engineering one.


Day Two, 2.05 pm

Some Impressions of Education
in Materials Science in China

D. Embury*1, K. Zhang2, X. Jin3, M. Wang3

1. McMaster University Canada and PMME

2. Department of Physics University of Rheims. France and PMME.

3. Department of Materials  Engineering,  Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai,  China

* corresponding author

The subject of Materials Science is of importance in the technological development of China, in its ability to create a modern infrastructure and in its ability to meet the needs of its rural population. Thus the form of Education at both the undergraduate and graduate is a topic of current debate in many Chinese Universities and many important changes in both curriculum development and educational strategy are in progress. These changes need to be seen in the context of the complex history of the growth of University education in China since 1949.

This talk will present some impressions of the changes which are now occurring and the challenges for the future in Materials Science education in China. The material presented is based on our joint experience in a number of major universities and research Institutes and is not an attempt to generalize the large and complicated university system in China. Attention will be given to new developments in curriculum and to the need to break down barriers both between Universities and between Departments and integrate Materials science with other disciplines in the Chinese context. The curriculum  at SJTU Shanghai will be discussed in detail together with a summary of the relationship of education to the pattern of employment of graduates .In addition  some  aspects of the interaction of Chinese Universities and major industries will be considered including the development of pilot scale operations and Spin Off companies The presentations will conclude with some views on optimizing  future collaboration between universities in the West  and China and the need to help foster educational initiatives related to Sustainability and Resource conservation.

PMME is an Association Education for a Better World (


Day Two, 2.40 pm

Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech:
a new Curriculum for a new School

A. C. Griffin

School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, GA, U.S.A.

Recently, the School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) and the School of Polymer, Textile and Fiber Engineering (PTFE), at Georgia Tech merged to form a new academic unit within the College of Engineering.  MSE was dominated by faculty with expertise in ceramics and metals while PTFE’s faculty strength was in polymers and fibers.  The opportunity to create a new school with a broad remit to engage both hard and soft materials in its research agenda and in its curriculum was seized upon with enthusiasm.  It was decided that the name would remain as School of Materials Science and Engineering, albeit with a newness to its internal and external faces including significant curricular revision. 

The decision was made early on to create a (new) B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and to ‘teach out’ the students currently in the two legacy degree programs – B.S. in Polymer and Fiber Engineering and (old) B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering – as the new degree program was being introduced.    Central to the discussions were the extent to which courses in chemistry would be required of all students; the nature and content of the ‘core’ courses and practical laboratories; and the areas of concentration beyond the core courses.  Constraints included Board of Regents limits on maximum credits required for undergraduate degrees and the desire to adhere to professional and national accrediting requirements.  In the end, the new curriculum has three concentration areas: structural and functional materials; polymer and fiber materials; and biomaterials.  Students choose one of these three.

In addition, an example will be offered of a new course that had its genesis in the merger: MSE 2801 Laboratory for Fundamental Concepts of Materials – a hands-on conceptual laboratory course with no prerequisites.  It was designed to appeal to students at Georgia Tech in areas other than Engineering: for example, public policy, economics, and biology by using (primarily) light microscopy as the tool for illustrating engineering principles across the soft-to-hard materials spectrum.


Day Two, 3.05 pm

Teaching Materials Science
to Engineering Students in the Netherlands

S. van der Zwaag,

Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft, the Netherlands.

All engineering students have to be educated in the elementary or more advanced concepts of materials science, as their final profession deals with the use of materials to realize desired engineering end-products.  Engineering students generally opted for their field of study because of their interest or even fascination in the tangible applications of their discipline. So, interest in materials science may not come natural to them.

Of course, materials science educators are well aware of this and try and adjust the course format to the interest of their students, (or so they hope). Rather than reporting on the various teaching styles and Materials Science course formats, in this presentation I will report on a comparative study of recent materials science exam questions for BSc students in several fields of engineering (civil engineering, mechanical engineering, maritime engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, industrial design and applied physics) studying at the three technical universities in the Netherlands.

Some interesting lessons are to be learned. 


Day Two, 4.10 pm

The teaching of Materials in UK Universities

T. Bullough

University of Liverpool, UK

The UK Centre for Materials Education has just completed its 2011 survey of all 26 UK University departments which teach Materials and Materials-related programmes at bachelor or masters level, to update the National Subject Profile for Materials 2008 ( This provides accurate information about current Materials' students and programmes, and Materials academics' views on their teaching challenges and methods, as well as a definitive picture of trends and changes in Materials programmes and teaching in the UK over the past decade. For instance, undergraduate bachelor and integrated-masters Materials-related programmes continue to be offered at 21 UK universities, although only 12 Universities provide general Materials Science and Engineering programmes which now produce less than two-thirds of the 400-plus graduates from materials-related undergraduate programmes. About 40% of undergraduates now graduate with integrated-masters degrees rather than bachelors. Post-graduate masters Materials courses from the 26 UK universities offering these advanced qualifications remain very buoyant, with a steady increase from just under 300 graduates in 2007 to over 400 such graduates in 2011. The number of specialised polymer/composites and nuclear/environmental/bio-Materials masters programmes continues to increase. In 2011, the uncertainties associated with the introduction of higher student fees has become a significant concern for the UK's Materials departments, along with dealing with visa restrictions introduced for non-EU students and responding to the increasingly varied prior knowledge of new Materials students. Materials academic staff also admit to being unfamiliar with the wealth of electronic and web-based Materials teaching resources now available, as well as the modern technologies used to deliver them. Responding to the results of the UK's annual National Student Survey of all final-year undergraduates was also mentioned as being a significant issue for some Materials departments, and an analysis of NSS data for Materials programmes across the UK will be presented.


Day Two, 4.40 pm

A fresh start in materials education and current challenges for
materials science and technology education in South America

I. Rintoul

Chair of Metallurgy. Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina.

The undergraduate materials engineering is a relatively new discipline in Argentina. This work summarizes the experience of formation of educators in materials science coming from other areas of science and engineering and the creation of the undergraduate courses of materials engineering at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral. The pros and the cons of the integration of different knowledge cultures and schools traditions, the formation of a new interdisciplinary way of thinking and the insertion of the materials science and engineering in a context with almost no precedent references in the subject will be exposed. The results of the introduction of materials science directly related to the regional needs of the Argentinean Littoral in secondary schools, postgrade courses, industry and government as diffusion strategy for the increment of candidates for materials engineering will be presented. Despite no external professors where hired with the exception of the author of this paper and been the only professor formed as materials science engineer the results appears to be satisfactory. The creation of the undergraduate courses in materials science and engineering served as umbrella for the development of a new environment for teaching, student education and the association between different research groups at the university. As result, the quality of research and teaching, the found rising and the generation of job offers in industry, academia and government for graduated students were significantly increased. A brief description of several activities and strategies with negative results is also included and discussed.