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An Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Model for the Materials Engineering Field

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Graduate Education Model, Industry and Practitioner Experience - Graduate Studies Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

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Paper Authors


Chi-Ning Chang Texas A&M University, Department of Educational Psychology Orcid 16x16

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Chi-Ning Chang is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University. His major is Research, Measurement, and Statistics. He works for an interdisciplinary graduate education program in the Material Engineering field, which is funded by the NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program. His current research interests are STEM Education and Quantitative Methodology.

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Brandie Semma Texas A&M University

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Brandie Semma is a doctoral student at Texas A&M University. Her research interests are in meta-analysis, Bayesian methods, and latent variable modeling.

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Debra A. Fowler Texas A&M University

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Dr. Debra Fowler serves as the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Texas A&M University. Following 16 years working in industry she completed a Ph.D. is in Interdisciplinary Engineering with a specific focus on engineering education from Texas A&M University. Her research areas of focus are faculty perspectives and growth through curriculum design and redesign, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, reflective eportfolios and professional development of graduate students related to teaching.

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Raymundo Arroyave Texas A&M University

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Dr. Arroyave is an Associate Professor with the department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. He received his Ph. D. degree in Materials Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His teaching interests include undergraduate courses on materials science and numerical methods and graduate courses on thermodynamics and kinetics of materials. He has more than 100 publications on the general field of computational thermodynamics and kinetics of materials, 20 conference proceedings (including papers on engineering education) and more than 120 conference presentations and 50 invited talks.

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Session Topics:

3. Innovative graduate programs and methods; 6. Professional graduate education relevant to needs of engineering practice; 10. Best practices in graduate engineering and technology education;


Materials innovations are crucial to technological progress. Equipping the next-generation materials workforce is one of the national efforts to sustain this progress (National Science and Technology Council, 2011). During the first five years of the Materials Genome Initiative, interdisciplinary research centers at universities around the country are developing new materials and educating the future workforce (White House, 2016). Our institution is dedicated to the development of an interdisciplinary graduate education model in Material Science Engineering. The research team is comprised of faculty members from six disciplines (i.e., Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Physics and Chemistry.) and one education center. In the recent year, the interdisciplinary graduate education program was funded by the National Science Foundation. During the first year, students must stay in their disciplines to establish disciplinary knowledge and modes of thinking. During the second year, students begin the interdisciplinary curriculum and activities, and collaborate with students and faculty from the other disciplines. In the third year, students bring back the interdisciplinary perspectives to their disciplines and complete an interdisciplinary research thesis. The curriculum incorporates a multidisciplinary core (i.e., materials, informatics, and design), an interdisciplinary core (i.e., materials design studio), as well as flexible terminal tracks (i.e., entrepreneurship, energy, computational materials, and internships). Students are asked to complete research projects in each course. Instructors and advisors evaluate their learning outcomes, professional skills, and technical skills based on rubrics, including interdisciplinary knowledge generation, collaboration, conflict resolution, oral communication, written communication, self-reflection, ethics, interdisciplinary research, multidisciplinary skills, materials science engineering, informatics, and design. In addition to the courses, students participate in a bi-weekly student-led learning community where they are challenged to improve the professional skills and technical skills, and diminish the gaps among the disciplines. To enhance interdisciplinary reflection, students create ePortfolios. To facilitate with students’ learning and career development, students are asked to formulate Individual Development Plans (IDP) with advisors annually. Coffee sessions and seminars are the platforms to consolidate the relationships among students and faculty members, connect with people outside their networks, and obtain up-to-date information in Materials Science. To improve the quality of education, faculty members engage in the bi-weekly community of scholars. This professional activity leads us to review the literature regarding interdisciplinary education, create tools (i.e., an IDP template, an ePortfolio template, program learning outcome rubrics, and assessment tools), and brainstorm ideas and solutions. Several components in this innovative model are emphasized, including an interdisciplinary curriculum, research projects, professional and technical skills, self-reflection, mentoring, and career counseling. In this study, we will introduce this model, and discuss the initial results and implications. We hope this education model can benefit other institutions, and produce more future materials workforce.

Chang, C., & Semma, B., & Fowler, D. A., & Arroyave, R. (2017, June), An Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Model for the Materials Engineering Field Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27578

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