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Impact of Materials on Society

  Materials Research Society Foundation

The Impact of Materials on Society subcommittee partnered with faculty from engineering, liberal arts and sciences and education at the University of Florida to develop an introductory level course suitable for undergraduate and community college students.

This course teaches students that engineering shapes and is shaped by social and cultural variables, and that a career in engineering is not only about math and science, but also about social problem-solving.

This project aims to build creative thinking by giving students enough exposure to the cultural and physical dimensions of materials and materials science to enable them to see current engineering problems in new ways, and to think globally as well as locally.

By targeting this class to first-semester students, it will enable students to draw lasting, creative connections between their general education requirements and core materials science and engineering curricula throughout their undergraduate careers.

In this MRS TV interview from the 2015 MRS Fall Meeting, Kevin Jones, University of Florida, discusses the Impact of Materials on Society program, the benefits, and how students have responded to the course.


  1. To enable materials science and engineering students to obtain "the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context."
  2. To change the "difficulty" perception of materials science and engineering by exposing students in any major to the role, values, and importance of engineering.
  3. To give students in any major competence in basic materials science and engineering principles.


The course features weekly units about different materials, including lectures by materials science and engineering faculty, case study presentations by humanities faculty, video lessons from materials scientists and researchers, and interdisciplinary discussions and activities to apply knowledge and explore current engineering opportunities and challenges.

Final Curriculum

After piloting the course for three semesters, the subcommittee and the faculty at the University of Florida have developed the final version of the curricular materials. Support from various sources has produced the following:

  1. Digital curriculum materials, including an online course and instructor's guide funded by the Department of Defense
  2. e-textbook to enrich the humanities case studies in partnership with Orange Grove Texts Plus 
  3. Ten original videos on innovative materials research aligned with the weekly modules through Bruno White Entertainment, a production company in Orlando, Florida

Working with MRS members and the Impact of Materials on Society Subcommittee, the University of Florida faculty developed ten modular weekly units for the one semester course. Each lesson illustrates the impact of a specific material on a current or future technology, while discussing potential social effects and perception. Students explore cutting edge science within its social and cultural context.

The weekly units have an accompanying video lesson that introduces current materials and speculates on future materials including how they could continue to impact social development. The videos were authored by the MRS Impact of Materials on Society subcommittee, University of Florida faculty and world leading science authorities from around the globe specifically for this course. 

Future plans include providing training workshops at MRS Spring and Fall Meetings to facilitate the implementation of the course to other two- and four-year campuses.

Download Impact of Materials on Society Flyer


If you would like to learn more about the Impact of Materials on Society course, the modular lessons and the NEW online course, or how to pilot the course on your campus, contact:

Kevin Jones
University of Florida
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Chair, Impact of Materials on Society Subcommittee


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