The Institute of Materials Science and Engineering (IMSE) seeks to create and sustain a culture of interdisciplinary materials science research and education at Washington University that eliminates traditional boundaries between departments and schools. Toward this end, the IMSE will administer an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program; expand and administer user facilities and resources for materials processing and characterization; coordinate and provide management support for interdisciplinary groups pursuing external funding for campus-wide research efforts; and coordinate research and entrepreneurial interactions with industry and national facilities.
Throughout history, civilization has advanced as a result of new innovations in materials that enabled the development of new technologies. Indeed, the solutions to the significant challenges that we currently face, including finding new sources of energy, developing ways to use the available energy more efficiently, and addressing environmental concerns, will demand the development of new materials. The design of new materials is also important for medical advances, with further developments in tissue engineering being only one example. Furthermore, many new techniques developed in materials investigations have expanded uses; one example is the application of methods for characterizing the structures of complex materials to study disease propagation.
Materials Science and Engineering is the interdisciplinary field focused on the development and application of new materials with desirable properties and microstructures. Disciplines in the physical sciences (Chemistry, Physics, etc.) and engineering fields (Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, etc.) frequently play a central role in developing the fundamental knowledge that is needed for materials studies. The discipline of Materials Science and Engineering integrates this knowledge and uses it to design and develop new materials and to mate these with appropriate technological needs.
While the development of materials is moving at a faster pace today than ever before, the current "time to market" from discovery to deployment of new materials is still too slow; it can take 20 years or more to develop, optimize, validate, and insert a material into service. Recognizing the bottleneck that the availability of new materials places on innovations in other strategic areas, in 2011 the White House launched the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) to fund the growth of the national materials innovation infrastructure, including experimental and computational tools and collaborative networks, necessary to both accelerate and bring down the cost of materials discovery and development.
The Institute of Materials Science and Engineering (IMSE), is well positioned to address the challenges articulated by the MGI. Established in 2013, the IMSE brings together more than thirty research groups in Arts & Science, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Medical School. The IMSE works to integrate and expand the existing materials interests at Washington University by establishing and overseeing shared research and instrument facilities, creating partnerships with industry and national facilities, and setting up outreach activities. In addition, IMSE oversees an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering that exploits the full potential of the existing materials activities to educate the next generation of materials scientists and engineers.