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University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
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Department hosts Open House to improve understanding of materials science field

To foster a better understanding of materials science among physics and chemistry undergraduates and their advisors - and to improve the long-range base of students interested in graduate-level study in this field - the UW-Madison Department of Materials Science and Engineering hosted an Open House on Nov. 14. More than 30 juniors, seniors and advisors from chemistry and physics departments at eight Midwest colleges and universities attended the event.

Of all the engineering disciplines, materials science may face the greatest challenge in recruiting graduate students, said Professor Richard J. Matyi, one of the event's organizers. "That's because not many students have a clear understanding of what materials scientists do and what opportunities exist within the field. Consequently, relatively few undergraduates choose this major, and graduate programs often find their recruitment efforts targeting related disciplines such as chemistry and physics.

Foundry demonstration

Materials science open house attendees observe a ductile iron pour in the College of Engineering's foundry. (large image)

"The purpose of the Open House was to tell students about materials science and related opportunities for graduate studies in the Midwest."

The idea came from a similar program conducted by the University of Minnesota in early October. Matyi and department chairman Eric E. Hellstrom were so impressed with that event that they decided to "steal" the concept, they said.

"We put our open house together from scratch in four weeks," said Matyi, noting it involved great dedication from faculty, staff and students. The event was co-hosted by Michigan Tech and Iowa State University.

The Saturday program included a series of brief talks and demonstrations by faculty, as well as lab tours conducted by graduate students. A special highlight was the ductile iron pour, which took place in the college's foundry - a facility relatively few universities have.

Toward the end of the day there was a panel discussion with materials science graduate students. Faculty left the room and students were encouraged to talk about anything and everything related to the materials science field.

Based on written evaluations filled out by the participants, the event was very successful, said Matyi. "The department will follow-up with those who attended."

The organizers said they would like to make the Open House an annual event, rotating between Iowa State, Michigan Tech, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and UW-Madison.

In addition to the host schools, colleges and universities represented Nov. 14 included UW-Stevens Point, UW-Parkside, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, Northern Illinois University, Ripon College, Carthage College, Loras College and Beloit College.