Materials Research Society sets the standard for a welcoming and inclusive professional society whose strength over the years has been to avoid a parochial view of what “materials research” is. This approach has allowed MRS to embrace scientists from different disciplines and their materials-related work, thereby leveraging interdisciplinary research toward solving challenges in areas as diverse as human health, the climate crisis or the future of computation. Over the 20+ years I have been involved with MRS I have had a number of collaborators from a variety of disciplines comment on how this particular aspect differentiates MRS from other professional societies. As we face new challenges, I believe that this inclusive approach should remain a guiding principle of MRS.
The growth of the Fall and Spring meetings has been pivotal for the success of MRS, however, it’s time to ask the question of how large we want these meetings to be without sacrificing topical diversity and emphasis on interdisciplinary research. One option we might consider is expanding the offering of focused conferences throughout the year to develop depth and complement the breadth of the main meetings.
While expanding the global reach of MRS remains an important goal, there is room for improvement in outreach within the US, which may result in greater diversity of our graduate programs in materials science. In particular, outreach to universities outside our usual network may provide opportunities for students to learn about materials science and develop a passion for a discipline that is not represented in their home institution. I believe that through networking and some strategic choices, opportunities to perform materials science research may become available to students that we currently fail to reach.
Finally, it is important to reiterate that materials science is at its most powerful when it leverages fundamental advances in service of solving society’s most pressing challenges. Thus, as research at universities seeks to innovate in these areas, it is important that it stays connected to practitioners who have the knowledge and experience needed to help maximize the impact of fundamental research. MRS historically has been very successful at attracting members from industry and connecting them to academics. It is crucial that this connection stays vibrant. As a professional society, we must ensure that our meetings are attractive to all members and provide productive networking opportunities and sessions where the academic and the industrial perspectives can both be represented.
I believe we are entering a new golden age of materials research with exciting developments in all areas, from soft and biological matter all the way to quantum materials. Within this context, MRS must provide leadership and show how the basic principles of materials science provide a fertile ground for interdisciplinary and impactful innovation across the board.