Posted October 28th, 2013 by Engineering

100 Years of Materials Innovation, 1913–2013

MSE Centennial Alumni & Industry Leadership Panelists

MSE Centennial Alumni & Industry Leadership Panelists (from left): CEO Shawn Qu of Canadian Solar Inc., chief metallurgist Polina Snugovsky of Celestica Inc., managing partner Robert Storey of Bereskin & Parr LLP, Professor Michael Ashby of Cambridge University, Provost David Wilkinson of McMaster University, Professor Donald Sadoway of MIT, and CEO Gino Palumbo of Integran Technologies Inc.

Once known as Department Eight: Metallurgical Engineering, the Department of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) has seen a lot of changes in 100 years.

Today, it can count close to 2,000 alumni, 200 current undergraduate students, 80 graduate students and 17 core faculty members.

But what hasn’t changed is that MSE at U of T continues to be one of the top-ranked materials science and engineering academic departments in the world.

“We are Canada’s premier engineering school and among the very best in the world, due in no small part to the deep-rooted expertise of our MSE faculty and alumni,” said Cristina Amon, Dean, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “Many of them have made hugely influential contributions in materials science and engineering at national and international levels.”

“I’m confident the next century will see the Department continue to set a standard for world-class research and education in materials science and engineering,” said Department Chair Jun Nogami (EngSci 8T0).

The Department marked its 100th anniversary with a two-day celebration on Oct. 23 and 24, which attracted alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends from around the world. Events celebrating the centennial included invited lectures, laboratory tours, an MSE research poster session, a reception and gala.

Also part of the mix was a leadership panel entitled “Nanotechnology … Revolution or Evolution?” moderated by U of T Materials Science & Engineering Professor Doug Perovic (MMS 8T6, MASc 8T8, PhD 9T0).

The panel included an impressive array of experts from industry and academia who gave a big-picture view of the engineering of small things.

They spoke about how nanotechnology, the science of manipulating atoms and molecules on a very small scale, is essentially about coaxing them into displaying unusual properties.

“Nanotech properties are not fixed. Their properties are engineered from the bottom up,” said Dr. Gino Palumbo (MMS 8T3, MASc 8T5, PhD 8T9), President and CEO of Integran Technologies Inc. As Palumbo pointed out, when people ask him what his company’s materials do, he in turn asks: “What do you want them to do?”

Still, panelists were united in cautioning against expecting nanomaterials to quickly displace existing technology.

“Twenty years is not an unusual amount of time to go from conception to commercialization,” said Michael F. Ashby, Royal Society Research Professor from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. “This isn’t like writing an app and six months later you can retire,” Ashby added.

Centennial offerings also included a panel moderated by Associate Professor Glenn D. Hibbard (MSE PhD 0T2) entitled “Perspectives from the Last 10 Years,” featuring graduates from the past decade.

In addition, Professor Ashby gave two lectures as part of the annual Winegard Visiting Lectureship Professor Ashby is recognized as the ‘pioneer’ of materials selection and has authored more than 200 papers and books on the topics of materials and design.

In two separate talks, he spoke about sustainable development from a materials perspective, and about why people buy products, focusing on a materials scientist’s view of industrial design.

Successful products depend as much on usability and satisfaction as they do on function, he said.

For more, visit the Department of Materials Science & Engineering website.

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