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The Data-Enabled Discovery and Design of Energy Materials program uses machine learning and artificial intelligence as part of its innovative curriculum. | Image: Getty Images

Texas A&M University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering’s Data-Enabled Discovery and Design of Energy Materials (D3EM) program has been highlighted as part of four objectives in the 2021 Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) national strategic plan.

Ten years ago, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy released the MGI, which recognized that the lack of suitable materials constituted a significant barrier to technology development necessary to enhance our economic well-being, health, environment and national security. The MGI sought to cut in half the time and resources needed to discover, develop and deploy materials by integrating experiments, simulations and data science. The 2021 MGI strategic plan sets the path forward for the following decade.

According to their website, the MGI is “a federal multi-agency initiative for discovering, manufacturing and deploying advanced materials twice as fast and at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional methods. The initiative creates policy, resources and infrastructure to support U.S. institutions in the adoption of methods for accelerating materials development.”

One of the goals of this strategic plan is to “educate, train and connect the materials research and development workforce,” with education being a significant part of this blueprint. 

The D3EM program has been highlighted as an exemplar for graduate education to meet the workforce development needs of the MGI. D3EM’s overarching goal is to develop and institutionalize a new training model that produces scientists and engineers grounded in one discipline with professional and technical skills. Additionally, they hope to mold engineers capable of effectively communicating within, collaborating and leading interdisciplinary teams throughout their academic careers, focusing on materials development and aligning with the 2021 MGI national strategic plan goals.

“The MGI has revolutionized the materials science discipline, and in the next decade, it is likely that machine learning and artificial intelligence will become even more prominent in the materials research practice,” said Dr. Raymundo Arróyave, professor in the department and program director for D3EM. “To fully realize these opportunities, the next generation of materials researchers need to be well versed in these transformative techniques. D3EM has already trained more than 50 Ph.D. and M.S. students in interdisciplinary approaches to materials discovery and design. We are looking forward to training the next cohort of students as we enter into this new exciting decade.”

The MGI aims to transform education and training by supporting programs that help tackle the challenges engineers face today. They propose addressing current challenges in the materials research and development of a workforce prepared for the next generation.