In This Issue
Spring Bridge on the US Metals Industry: Looking Forward
March 29, 2024 Volume 54 Issue 1
In this issue of The Bridge, guest editors Greg Olson and Aziz Asphahani have assembled feature articles that demonstrate how computational materials science and engineering is leading the way in the deployment of metallic materials that meet increasingly advanced design specifications.

Editor in Chief's Note The Materials Genome Initiative Grows

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Author: Ronald M. Latanision

Engineering systems of all kinds rely on the availability of materials of construction that meet design demands. From semiconductor photoelectrodes for use in water splitting to produce hydrogen to the materials of construction for hypersonic vehicles to materials for medical devices, the need for advanced materials that meet advanced design specifications is growing. In this issue of The Bridge, guest editors Greg Olson and Aziz Asphahani have assembled feature articles that demonstrate how computational materials science and engineering is leading the way in the deployment of metallic materials that meet increasingly advanced design specifications.

The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is mentioned often in this issue’s articles. Whether it be the human genome or the materials genome, it is the chemistry and processing of materials broadly that determine their structure and, in turn, their properties and performance in service. In the case of humans, nature does the processing. In the case of engineering materials, humans take on that role. In either case, processing-structure-properties-performance relationships are key. MGI was launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in June of 2011, with the aim of increasing US global competitiveness by significantly accelerating the pace at which advanced materials are discovered, developed, and transitioned into manufactured products. The end goal of MGI is the deployment of new materials to address societal and national needs.[1] MGI will be the focus of the fall 2025 issue of The Bridge, which will be guest edited by Amit Goyal (NAE 2018), SUNY Empire Innovation Professor and Distinguished ­Professor in SUNY-Buffalo’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

I have had a long-standing interest and participation in the development of new materials for advanced engineering systems. Although I am not a computational ­materials science researcher, I recently co-chaired, along with Karin Rabe (NAS 2013), Board of Governors Professor of ­Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University, a NASEM study of the National Science Foundation’s role in the ­Materials Genome Initiative.[2] I refer in particular to the NSF program Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer Our Future (DMREF). NSF has positioned itself as the MGI partner that, through DMREF, develops the funda­mental science and computational and experimental tools for generating and managing data, and, through the students that DMREF supports at universities, develops the intellectual infrastructure and workforce that enable industry and government agencies to produce and deploy materials that meet societal and national needs. DMREF and MGI are arguably reshaping materials science and engineering in terms of education and practice.

The transition from discovery and development to deployment involves technology transitions and the partnerships that are required to make such transitions successful. This is not without challenges. For example, the proprietary interests of a publicly traded company could lead to a reluctance to share research data that may have commercial potential. But such concerns can be managed as they have in the past. I believe that it is important for MGI to demonstrate to the public and to policymakers that the engineering community can identify materials needs and address them in order to serve societal interests and national priorities. As an example, mission-oriented national labs have taken a deliberate role in identifying such needs and then working alongside university faculty and US industry to respond.

I thank Aziz and Greg for assembling this issue.

In this issue we are also pleased to include an interview with celebrated novelist Andy Weir, known for his 2011 novel, The Martian, which was the basis for a 2015 film of the same name, as well as the 2021 novel, Project Hail Mary. With this interview, we add a new dimension to this feature: in addition to the print version of the interview that appears in this issue, a video of the interview will appear on the NAE website.

Finally, I’ll conclude on a sad note, with the passing of Sam Florman, civil engineer, general contractor, and author. Sam died peacefully on February 4, 2024, at the age of 99. Sam was an advisor to Cameron Fletcher, ­former senior editor of The Bridge, and me as we launched the Bridge interview series in 2014. We began the interview series in large measure as a consequence of conversations we had with him. We traveled to Manhattan and interviewed him at his home for the winter 2015 issue. Always upbeat and insightful, his 2015 interview is as timely today as it was in 2014. I invite you to read it. Sam was my model for civility and grace, two attributes that are in short supply in the world today.

As always, I welcome your comments. Feel free to reach out to me at RLatanision@exponent.com.


[1]  The 2021 Strategic Plan for the MGI can be found at https: //www.mgi.gov/sites/default/files/documents/MGI-2021- Strateg ic-Plan.pdf.

[2]  The report can be found here: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26723/nsf-efforts- to- achieve-the-nations-vision-for-the-materials-genome- initiati ve.

About the Author:Ronald M. Latanision (NAE) is a senior fellow at Exponent and editor in chief of The Bridge.