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A group of scientists who have been producing breakthroughs for the past 10 years that have contributed to advances in everything from medicine to space exploration is getting a new home at the University of Central Florida

The College of Engineering and Computer Science has created a Materials Science and Engineering Department that puts these professors under one “house.” Materials science is the interdisciplinary study of the properties of matter. The focus is the structural composition of materials down to the atomic level using what is known about physics and chemistry to understand the complexity of everyday objects. Everything around us is made of materials and the goal of materials science is to create new and better materials that can be used in a variety of ways to benefit society.

Thanks to researchers in this field, materials that withstand harsh space travel conditions have become a reality. They are also working on improving computers, engineering nanomaterials within cells to provide better imaging techniques to detect cancer cells early, and devising ways to use the liquid crystals found in modern television sets for better disease diagnostics.

“By creating the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, UCF has centralized a program that, by its very nature, spans multiple disciplines,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, the college’s interim dean. “It also directs national prominence and visibility on UCF’s robust materials science research, which for 10 years has received significant funding, achieved notable breakthroughs and has been highly ranked by the National Research Council.”

Kevin Coffey, a professor of materials science and engineering, has been appointed MSE interim chair. He is a leader in his field, holding more than 21 patents. His research ranges from semiconductor technology to the anti-theft sensors that are attached to merchandise in department stores.

Materials science and engineering has existed as Master’s and doctoral degree programs at UCF for more than 10 years, with the support of the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center. The move establishes the degree programs under the new department. There are plans underway to offer students an undergraduate degree in this area, which wasn’t available before.

MSE is home to six primary faculty members and 17 secondary faculty members who represent materials science, physics, biology, chemistry, nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. The department has 57 students pursuing MSE master’s and doctoral degrees. MSE is located in the Engineering 1 building on UCF’s main campus.

The other five primary MSE faculty include Professor Linan An, who specializes in polymer-derived ceramics, micro-electricalmechanical systems and micro-sensors for extreme applications; Professor Sudipta Seal, director of AMPAC and NSTC, who specializes in nanotechnology and surface engineering; Professor Yong-Ho Sohn, director of UCF’s Materials Characterization Facility, who researches structural materials for extreme environments, and diffusion in complex multiphase alloys; Associate Professor Jiyu Fang, who is working in hierarchical self-assembly of molecules in soft matter and biological systems; and Associate Professor Rajan Vaidyanathan, who specializes in shape-memory alloys, and diffraction-based studies of materials’ structure using beams of X-rays and neutrons.

Originally published by UCF Today