Materials Science is a cuttingedge field with high market demand for graduates and vast extramural funding. Investments in Materials Science will position Baylor University as a leader in technologies that make products faster, stronger, and lighter, providing solutions for enhanced quality of life. Over the last 50 years, Materials Science has played a pivotal role in defining modern society. Our methods of communication, such as computers, smart phones, HD televisions, and other communication systems, rely heavily on advances that have sprung from materials research. These same advances have also enabled unprecedented computing power and ushered in the “data and information age” that is rapidly transforming how business is done on a day-to-day basis.
Composite materials are increasingly used in the aerospace and automotive industries, revolutionizing the way we travel. Moving forward, advances in Materials Science will play a key role in realizing efficient energy storage and usage such as that required for solar energy and electric cars. Materials research also extends into the medical field. For example, plastics have revolutionized the chemical compatibility of artificial implants, and nanoscale materials promise to offer new alternatives for drug delivery, including cancer treatment. These examples represent only a sampling of the numerous ways that Materials Science has a positive impact on our daily lives.
Investments in Materials Science will place Baylor distinctly at intersections of technology and Christian stewardship of God’s earth and its resources. From an academic perspective, Materials Science is a relatively new field, offering faculty and students abundant opportunities to learn and exhibit creativity, ingenuity, inspiration, and intellectual growth. With recent advances in scientific instrumentation and fabrication methods, we are now able to image individual atoms, detail the composition of complex mixtures, “see” chemical transformations take place, and fabricate materials and devices on a scale that approaches the atomic level. None of this was possible a few decades ago. Researchers can now test ideas, reformulate hypotheses, and confirm concepts that have previously been the subject of mere speculation. Moreover, materials research targets both fundamental and applied outcomes, naturally bridging microscale to macroscale in both length and time. Learning how basic properties evolve between these two regimes is both illuminating and fascinating. The real payoff, however, is not in learning “what is,” but rather in learning “what could be.”
Research in Materials Science has been active among Baylor faculty for several years. Working individually and across a range of colleges, schools, and departments, these faculty have garnered external funding, provided high-impact learning experiences for undergraduate and graduate students, and are identifying solutions to challenges facing high-visibility industries.
More than a dozen faculty, from engineering and physics to chemistry and biochemistry, currently have active projects in Materials Science. Engineers are developing ultrasonic signal analysis tools for composite/metal bonded joints and low cost, label-free, multiplexable optical cavity biosensors with high sensitivity, high selectivity, and a large dynamic range using chained differential detection. Physicists are studying ultrafast nonlinear epsilon-near-zero optics in active conducting oxide metasurfaces and self-ordering of interacting complex plasma particles in microgravity. Chemists and biochemists are examining transition metal-boryl complexes for catalytic olefin functionalization and plasmon enhanced photovoltaics: modeling energy and charge transfer in solar nanoassemblies.
The energy and excitement in this research arena are palpable, and with a focused priority on research in Materials Science the synergies between and among Baylor researchers will transform the University's research environment and yield substantial funding and results with impact.