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Materials Engineering as a Catalyst for Sustainability Education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Materials Science Education for the Future

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.887.1 - 23.887.9



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey W. Fergus Auburn University

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Jeffrey W. Fergus received his B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1985 and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1990. After a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Notre Dame, he joined the materials engineering faculty at Auburn University, where he is currently a professor.

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Materials Engineering as a Catalyst for Sustainability Education ABSTRACTSustainability has become an increasingly important consideration for society in general as wellas for the engineering profession. Materials engineering is particularly important for addressingsustainability, since materials engineers are involved both in the production and processing ofmaterials with low energy use and low environmental impact (supply side) as well as in theselection of materials (demand side). Thus, including sustainability concepts in materialsengineering curricula is particularly important.Sustainability content can be integrated into existing materials engineering courses or presentedin separate courses, both of which have value. Integration into materials courses helps studentsapply sustainability concepts to materials engineering design and processes, while separatesustainability-focused courses provide opportunities for engaging students from other disciplines.The latter approach is the focus of this paper.Sustainability is an extremely broad topic and inherently interdisciplinary, which createsexcellent opportunities to engage a broad range of students. Many students have a perceptionthat engineering is about designing and building products for profit rather than for the benefit ofsociety. Demonstrating the need for engineers to develop sustainable technologies foraddressing societal needs may attract some of these students to engineering in general, ormaterials engineering, in particular. In addition, discussion of sustainability inevitably involvesmultiple disciplines, so the discussion is enhanced with multiple perspectives.This paper will discuss specific courses related to sustainable energy technology, life-cycleanalysis and mineral resources that have been designed to be assessable to non-materialsengineering students, and even non-engineering students. The paper will include discussion ofthe content of and experience with the courses, as well as the relationship of the courses to othersustainability-related educational efforts on campus.

Fergus, J. W. (2013, June), Materials Engineering as a Catalyst for Sustainability Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22272

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