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Watts News: Leadership

Pete AndersonLeadership is the focus of this issue of Watts News. That attribute, like many, can manifest from the institutional to the individual scale but in nearly all cases, leadership is garnered over time, through commitment and peer recognition. As undergraduate student enrollment approaches 400, graduate enrollment approaches 200, annual research expenditures top $21 million, and the faculty ranks grow to 42 (34 tenure-track, four clinical, and four research), the nature of leadership takes on multiple facets — spanning academic, intellectual, and industrial/societal contexts. The featured stories in this edition provide a snapshot of one of the largest university materials programs in the US.

An overarching theme is unprecedented levels of institutional investment in materials from the perspective of my 29 years at Ohio State. Our feature on new faculty members profiles six new faculty hires since January 1, 2017. They include the first female faculty in welding engineering, an interdisciplinary, multi-faculty hiring in energy storage, in-situ/operando electron microscopy, the Edward Orton Jr. Chair in Ceramic Engineering, and aging systems and infrastructure. This caps the recruitment of twelve faculty over a three-year period! News of upcoming renovations details a $59.1 million project to bring the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering into a shared complex. The open architecture will literally put research and teaching on display and create collaborative, multi-functional learning environments and spaces that foster materials innovation across campus. The story of new additive manufacturing capabilities, courtesy of GE, describes a grant from GE for a Concept Laser M-Lab machine that will provide a powder-bed laser additive manufacturing experience for students in the medical and engineering disciplines.

This investment is coupled to the college strategic themes of Materials, Manufacturing, Medicine, and Mobility. We are hitting all four with contributions that span from long-range, fundamental studies to activities with significant industrial impact. Our profile of WastePD highlights the first-ever EFRC in Ohio and the fundamental science behind aqueous corrosion of glasses, ceramics, and metals. The Manufacturing and Materials Joining Innovation Center showcases innovative approaches to mitigate and quantify resistance to stress corrosion cracking in aluminum alloys and steels. A major investment by the National Science Foundation will yield one of three new scanning electron microscopes in the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis. And Jianjun Guan’s innovative work illustrates how injectable polymers can be used to suppress tissue damage after a heart attack.

Leadership is indeed multi-faceted. I hope this issue demonstrates how our historic strengths in metals, joining, and microscopy have spawned national centers, how our strong ties to both federal and industry support can fuel both science and engineering innovation, and how institutional investment has afforded expansion into materials for medicine, sensing, energy harvesting, and storage.