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October 29, 2020

A message from new MS&E department chair Izabela Szlufarska

Written By: Webmanager

Hello friends and alumni,

 Izabela Szlufarska
Izabela Szlufarska

I hope this message finds you safe and well.

I am pleased and honored to introduce myself as the new chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. I have been a faculty member at UW-Madison since 2004 and also served as an associate department chair in MS&E from 2012 to 2015. In my research, I develop and apply theory and multiscale simulations, combined with advanced materials characterization, to discover fundamental materials behavior and to develop new advanced materials for future technologies. I am very grateful to Professor Susan Babcock for the leadership she provided to the department for almost a decade. I look forward to the opportunity to continue the tradition of excellence in both education and research scholarship at MS&E.

Over the last few months, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with other schools and colleges around the world, have experienced a semester unlike any other. The University, College of Engineering, and MS&E are deeply committed to the health and well-being of our students. We have worked diligently to put in place crucial protective measures to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for our students, staff, and faculty as the world combats the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include offering a number of courses remotely, limiting the maximum in-person class sizes while increasing the number of sections offered for critical in-person courses, face covering requirements, and making available free coronavirus testing for the campus community. We as a department are joining forces with the College and University to meet the high standards we set for ourselves by providing an outstanding educational experience and we will not be held back by the challenges posed by COVID-19.

I am proud to report that despite working apart, MS&E faculty and students have continued to conduct research at the very forefront of the materials field and earn recognition for their discoveries and accomplishments. Our faculty have been highly productive, receiving distinguished awards and developing creative solutions to address critical technological and societal problems. This newsletter includes a few examples from these successful endeavors. For instance, Professor Xudong Wang, along with a team of UW engineers and researchers, developed a 3D printed “smart” artery that can enable real-time monitoring of patients. Impressive contributions have been also made by our undergraduate and graduate students, who are a critical component of our departmental culture of innovation. In this newsletter we included an example of how our students worked alongside Professor Kumar Sridharan to develop novel processing methods and materials to ensure safety of nuclear reactors; this technology has been recently patented. We have also included a story that illustrates agility and creativity of our faculty and staff in the face of COVID-19. In particular, be sure to check out how our Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) has successfully transitioned to the remote format for the UW Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), allowing undergraduate students from all over the country to learn in a diverse setting and to participate in a broad array of UW research.

I am excited about the direction of the department as we move forward. Within the past few years, we have welcomed several new faces to our faculty and we have expanded our core strengths to new exciting research areas, such as quantum materials, and information-based materials design. In parallel, building upon our department’s strong roots in metallurgy, we are advancing this field, including design of new alloys for the ever-increasing demands on technology and energy efficiency and development of processes and materials for additive manufacturing. Since MS&E is heavily invested in the success of our students, we have also made progress in expanding our curriculum to reflect the changing directions of the materials science field. From nanotechnology to nuclear power, MS&E faculty and students are on the way to engineering tomorrow, today.

Though I may have taken over as chair during a time of uncertainty, the mission of the department could not be clearer. Together, we are committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive community that advances the frontiers of science and engineering, disseminates discoveries and inventions, and prepares students to make the world a better place for all.

Izabela Szlufarska
Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Engineering and Department Chair