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An MGI-powered curriculum

Programmatic structure of the D3EM program

Programmatic structure of the D3EM program. See

Credit: Texas A&M University

Universities have begun to embed MGI principles into the undergraduate and graduate curricula, although much remains to be done. Modifying the undergraduate curriculum is challenging, given the highly structured nature of most curricula in materials science and engineering and related fields. At the graduate level, however, there tends to be considerably more flexibility in the curriculum, and several programs have developed comprehensive self-contained programs (as minors, certificates, or even specialized Masters-level degrees) focused on training graduate students on concepts related to the MGI. One such effort initiated by Texas A&M University is the Data-enabled Discovery and Design of Energy Materials (D3EM) program. Initially funded by the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program, D3EM now has institutional support as an Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate on Materials Science, Informatics, and Design, and spans six departments in the Colleges of Science and Engineering at that university.

D3EM combines the forward and inverse exploration and exploitation of materials design spaces by including a cross-disciplinary curriculum including courses on materials science, informatics, and engineering design. Scheduled after the participants’ grounding in their own disciplines, D3EM provides MGI-focused training in machine-learning-enabled exploration of materials spaces, and their design or optimization through goal-oriented engineering design principles. The technical element of the curriculum culminates with an interdisciplinary “Materials Design Studio,” a project-based course aiming to address actual materials discovery/development problems. D3EM also provides training in the skills essential to fruitful interdisciplinary research, including communication and collaboration, technical writing, team science, and leadership. Participating faculty are organized through a community of scholars whose focus is the continuous improvement of the students’ educational experiences.

Thus far, D3EM has trained over 40 PhD and MS students from eight different academic departments and it is shaping a new Transformative Doctoral Education Model at the university that emphasizes critical reflection, problem solving, discourse, and mentorship. Roughly half of all projects in the Materials Design Studio have been further developed into peer-reviewed publications ranging from the accelerated design of specific materials to pedagogical aspects of teaching MGI principles. The program seeks to prepare its trainees for success in any career of their choosing and has thus partnered with national laboratories and industry to create a variety of internships, including a data-enabled materials discovery program with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) focused on broadening participation by underrepresented groups. The program leverages the D3EM educational model to conduct data-enabled research where students work in concert with AFRL mentors on projects ranging from defect prediction during additive manufacturing to discovery and design of 2D functional materials for novel properties. Of the 13 graduate students sponsored by AFRL to date, 10 have spent an extended research period in the laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and one is beginning a post-doctoral fellowship.

Created September 2, 2021