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Stephen K. Streiffer, Argonne National Laboratory

Candidate for MRS Vice President

Stephen Streiffer

Stephen Streiffer is the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology at Argonne National Laboratory. In this role, he is the laboratory’s chief research officer, and responsible for establishing emerging science directions and implementing a laboratory-wide science strategy in partnership with Argonne’s senior research and development leadership. He also supports Argonne’s development of new science and technology talent, the hiring and mentoring of scientific leaders, and is charged with serving as a strong advocate for the advancement of laboratory diversity and inclusion objectives as the Chair of the Women in Science and Technology steering committee and as executive sponsor of the lab’s early career employee resource group.

Streiffer has served in a number of other senior roles at Argonne, including associate laboratory director for photon sciences and director of the Advanced Photon Source, a Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences user facility. The APS is the brightest source of high-energy x-rays in the western hemisphere, and is one of the largest scientific user facilities in North America, with more than 5,500 users visiting each year. He has also served as interim director of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials, a national user facility that provides capabilities explicitly tailored to the creation and characterization of new functional materials on the nanoscale. Most recently, he was one of the founding co-chairs of the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory (NVBL), a consortium of all seventeen Department of Energy National Laboratories founded in March 2020 to address key challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis, including medical supply shortages, discovery of drugs to fight the virus, development of COVID-19 testing methods, modeling of disease spread and impact across the nation, and understanding virus transport in buildings and the environment.

Streiffer’s scientific expertise is in structural characterization of materials particularly using transmission electron microscopy and x-ray scattering techniques, and in nanostructured complex oxides and nitrides. He has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific publications and holds one patent. He received his PhD degree in materials science and engineering from Stanford University in 1993 and his BS degree in materials science and engineering from Rice University in 1987.

Streiffer has been involved with MRS since his graduate studies. In addition to MRS being his technical society home, he organized four MRS meeting symposia, was a volume organizer for the 2010 MRS Bulletin, and was a member of the MRS Board of Directors from 2012-2014. He also served as a volunteer on the MRS Materials Microworld committee that helped to develop Strange Matter in the early 2000s, a traveling science exhibition and website built and managed by the Ontario Science Centre to promote public understanding of materials science and engineering; and on the NOVA subcommittee that advised on Making Stuff. He has also been active in the IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control Society, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Candidate's Statement

The challenges facing human society and the environment are becoming increasingly stark. Our efforts to address these challenges – including climate change, clean energy, communication and information technology paradigms, and the wise use of resources that are under increasing stress and demand, among many others – are fundamentally underpinned by materials research. Indeed, materials research stands poised to transform many of these challenges into opportunities for humankind and the planet. However, at the same time as the need for science-based solutions for these challenges and opportunities has come into increasingly sharp focus, scientific illiteracy and disinformation is increasing around the globe, while international competition increasingly brings us into conflict with the fundamental values of openness that are essential for science and technology to thrive. We as a community have a duty to counter these trends by committing to long-standing principles of scientific discourse and knowledge dissemination, and by educating and informing the public.

Since its founding, the Materials Research Society has positioned itself precisely at the intersection of the issues outlined above: as an international society that serves as a convener and conduit for the global materials community to interact and share information and progress, with a long time focus on technology areas that transform the way we live, and that works through many channels to build public awareness of the importance of the interdisciplinary research and development that is represented in the MRS’ membership.

Our approach to this mission cannot be static. For example, the rapidly changing nature of the ways that scientists and engineers communicate requires us to continually adapt to best serve the needs of the community. The MRS has demonstrated its ability to adapt and grow, as evidenced by the society’s partnership with Springer Nature, which provides an exciting and sustainable path forward for the MRS’ publication activities. The COVID-19 pandemic has also opened our eyes to both the strengths and weaknesses of new ways to collaborate and share information. We need to take the lessons learned from this and quickly redevelop best practices that are both effective and might for instance help mitigate some of the environmental consequences associated with meeting travel.

My goal in joining MRS leadership is to support the society in partnership with the Board of Directors, Headquarters leadership and staff, and the members in developing strategies that allow the MRS to stay ahead of these trends, focus on the technical areas that are of most interest and importance to its membership, and be a recognized leader among professional societies in its support for its membership and its approach to pursuing its objectives.

Finally, as a member-driven society, supporting, enhancing, and expanding the MRS’ membership is required to achieve the MRS’ vision and goals. The society’s key functions in knowledge dissemination & publications, education, government relations, outreach, recognition, and building networks cannot be advanced without engaging the research community as well as the public in as broad a manner as possible. This includes engagement at all career stages, giving increased attention to serving underrepresented groups, and providing mechanisms and forums within the society that address inclusion, equity, mentoring, and professional development.

Together we can achieve these goals.