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Chinedum Osuji, University of Pennsylvania

Candidate for MRS Board of Directors

Chinedum Osuji

Chinedum Osuji is Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of Pennsylvania. After a BS degree in materials science at Cornell, he received his PhD degree in materials science and engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003 for studies of structure-property relationships and self-assembly of liquid crystalline block copolymers with Edwin L. Thomas. From 2003-2005 he was a senior scientist at Surface Logix Inc. where he worked on soft lithography. From 2005-2007 he was a postdoctoral associate in applied physics at Harvard University with David A. Weitz where he studied shear-induced structure and dynamics of colloidal gels. From 2007-2018, Osuji was at Yale University in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. In 201,8 he joined the University of Pennsylvania where he is currently the Eduardo D. Glandt Presidential Professor, and Chair, in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and a member of the Materials Science Graduate Group. Osuji is an associate editor for Macromolecules and serves on editorial advisory boards for Physical Review Materials, Journal of Materials Chemistry, and ACS Polymers Au. He leads an experimental research group focused on structure and dynamics of soft materials and complex fluids. Topics of interest include structure-property relationships in ordered soft materials, directed self-assembly of block copolymers and other soft mesophases or molecular materials, and rheology and slow dynamics of disordered systems. In recent years, his group has advanced the use of magnetic fields to control texture in self-assembled soft materials, and the development of nanostructured membranes for nanofiltration from self-assembled soft mesophases.

Osuji is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a recipient of a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (2008). He received an Office of Naval Research's Young Investigator award and a 3M Nontenured Faculty award in 2012. He is the recipient of the Dillon Medal of the American Physical Society (2015), the Hendrick C. Van Ness Award (2019), and the Nano Research Young Investigator Award (2019).

Candidate's Statement

Materials research is central to solving some of the biggest challenges facing humanity today. Whether in the fields of energy, health care, information technology, or food and water production, we need materials to provide improved solutions to pressing concerns. As the preeminent professional society focused on materials research, MRS has a particular stewardship of this task, and a mission to ensure the vitality of the broad community of individuals and organizations that are concerned with materials research. This is well-reflected in the strategic objectives of the society, with our focus on active and effective dissemination, ensuring continued relevance of materials research through communication of societal benefits, and building a vibrant and diverse membership. As we approach our 50th year, we can rightly celebrate “The Rise of Interdisciplinarity” and multiple other successes enjoyed in the intervening years since 1973. The MRS meetings are unrivaled as the gatherings of choice for scientists seeking to disseminate their best materials research, and to engage meaningfully with the large international community of scientists that see the MRS as their intellectual home. Likewise, MRS publications are journals of record for materials scientists seeking to communicate their work in a timely fashion to the most relevant audiences.

As we look towards the coming years, while we can take stock of successes, we also recognize the challenges and headwinds that we face in its pursuit of our strategic objectives. Some are unique to MRS, while others are generic to large scientific societies, of which MRS is one. The landscape for large scientific meetings was already shifting rapidly before it was abruptly upended by the COVID crisis in 2020-2021. The implications of the pivot to remote meetings are multi-faceted and are not yet fully known. Sustaining the excellence of the society and its pursuit of its strategic objectives calls for agility and a willingness to innovate in response to this changing landscape. Within MRS, the question of “what constitutes materials research” is a critical one, but one that too often results in a narrowing, rather than a broadening, of the membership of the society. Increasing membership from industrial scientists and cultivating more interactions at the interface between industry and academia stand also as challenges for MRS in the coming years.
Along with challenges come opportunities, and MRS is well-positioned to capitalize on these, in furtherance of its mission. Pedagogy, for elementary school students and teachers to professional materials researchers, represents one such area where the society can amplify its impact in pursuit of its strategic objectives. Likewise, an embrace of more modern modes for dissemination of research, and discussion thereof, will help to position MRS as a leader not just in materials research, but in scientific publishing overall. Finally, societal awareness of the importance of materials in addressing societal needs is building towards a likely tipping point as we face down climate change, plastic pollution, and energy challenges. The Society must redouble its efforts to ensure that awareness of the important role of materials research in improving the human condition is translated into actionable plans that will set the stage for the years to come.

More important than any listing of ideas, challenges and opportunities for MRS however, are the issues of mechanisms and people – the “tools” with which we address whatever stands before us. The charge of the MRS Board is governance, and it functions therefore to steer the society towards its strategic objectives. As a Board member, while I may bring a particular interest in the aforementioned topics, viz. improving dissemination of research, meeting reform, and pedagogy, I believe the most important work of the Board is to provide and exercise mechanisms that facilitate organizational responsiveness, and to cultivate a deep pool of dedicated and passionate members. The membership after all is the wellspring from which solutions to future technological and organizational challenges will emerge, and it is through a vibrant, diverse and healthy membership that MRS maintains its extraordinary relevance in the current scientific landscape.

As a Board member, I bring a particular interest in (1) improving dissemination and discussion of materials research through innovative publishing; (2) cultivating MRS meetings to maintain vibrant membership and leadership in materials research; (3) materials pedagogy to further the MRS mission and build membership. I believe the most important work of the Board is to provide and exercise mechanisms that facilitate organizational responsiveness, and to cultivate a deep pool of dedicated and passionate members. My work on the Board will be in furtherance of those two objectives.