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North American 2016 Materials Education Symposium

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Rethinking the Materials Paradigm: a Bottom-up Philosophy

Mr John Nychka | University of Alberta and University of Toronto

Rethinking the Materials Paradigm: a Bottom-up Philosophy

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A common challenge for MSE undergraduates is to weave the concepts being learned in their various courses into a unified framework. The conventional materials paradigm provides a manner for considering the interrelationships of structure, properties, processing, and performance. But is this the clearest way to unify the various aspects of a material? Does the paradigm suggest ways to permit integrative thinking and synthesis of concepts and ideas? We will consider the conventional MSE paradigm from several perspectives. We argue that the classical tetrahedron shape representing the paradigm is unnecessarily close-formed. In particular it diminishes the central role of structure in defining mechanism, which was the critical contribution of the first generations of Materials Scientists. In effect, these intellectual pioneers created a new way of thinking - one that was quantitative, nested, and considered in parallel. One can argue that what they had in fact created was an integrated bottom-up philosophy based upon structure. Nonetheless, we will pursue other ways to represent the elements of the paradigm to better focus on structure and foster integrative thinking.