Carnegie Mellon University

photoRobert Heard

Materials Science and Engineering

Materials are what we see, touch, and experience. Everything we buy, use and discard originates from a material resource. Materials have played an enormous role in the advancement of civilization. It was mans’ ability to manipulate the environment to extract resources to make and improve materials that lead to the development of tools, goods and shelter. Throughout history it has been materials that opened trade routes, supported armies, enslaved people, created riches, and pushed the development of civilization through industrialization. Even today, the drive for materials and secure resources influences global politics and society. As globalization of our world economy continues, there is evidence that real material sustainability is questionable. It is no secret that the developed world is living beyond our sustainable means and we are now being joined by other developing nations. We should not expect decisions from political or economic leaders to guide our sustainability efforts as it is not in their best interest to provide this choice. The only group of professionals that can pro-actively influence material selection and consumption are those that make design decisions to use a material. This responsibility is one of the engineer. To make an intelligent material decision, today’s engineers must be educated in proper design and in methodology that supports selection of materials under consideration of sustainability and environmental impact.