First two of four ‘signature’ areas named

Advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure is one of Missouri S&T's signature areas for teaching and research.

Advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure is one of Missouri S&T’s signature areas for teaching and research.

Missouri University of Science and Technology made significant headway in carrying out its strategic plan this week by identifying two of four areas in which the campus aims to achieve best-in-class, or signature, status as a research university.

The two areas – advanced manufacturing and advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure – were chosen from among 15 proposals submitted by Missouri S&T faculty. The proposals and subsequent presentations were screened by a committee of faculty representatives from all academic areas on campus, then selected by S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader and Provost Warren K. Wray. The proposals were judged on how well they connected to long-term critical national issues, research and entrepreneurship potential, and alignment with Missouri S&T’s strategic plan.

“From the beginning, we have known that to successfully implement our strategic plan, we would have to focus on signature areas of excellence,” Schrader says. “Our plan isn’t about being everything to everyone. It is about deciding where it makes the most sense to invest, enable and grow, and providing the best return on that investment to our customers. These two areas represent a bold step in the future vitality of this university and will offer research and educational solutions to benefit Missouri, the nation and the world.”

Attaining signature status in these areas means that Missouri S&T will build on their distinctive strengths in teaching and research to make the areas among the nation’s best, Schrader says. To better position S&T to achieve this status, last September Schrader announced new funding from campus and the University of Missouri System to support the hiring of additional faculty in signature areas, as well as in other areas of strategic importance. In all, S&T plans to add 100 new faculty positions by 2020, an increase of nearly 20 percent.

In the signature area of advanced manufacturing, S&T will emphasize instruction and research in the emerging fields of additive manufacturing; energy manufacturing; micro- and nano-scale manufacturing; network-centric and cloud manufacturing; advanced materials for manufacturing; and intelligent, sensor-enabled manufacturing.

The area will be led by a multidisciplinary team of researchers. That team includes Dr. Ming Leu, the Keith and Pat Bailey Missouri Distinguished Professor of Integrated Product Manufacturing; Dr. Wayne Huebner, professor and chair of materials science and engineering; Dr. Jag Sarangapani, the William A. Rutledge-Emerson Electric Co. Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Dr. Suzanna Long, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering; Dr. Frank Liu, professor of computer science; Dr. Greg Hilmas, Curators’ Professor of ceramic engineering; and Dr. Frank Liou, the Michael and Joyce Bytnar Professor of Product Innovation and Creativity.

“This is a perfect fit for Missouri S&T because of the national importance of advanced manufacturing, the existing S&T strength in this area and our confidence in developing it to be among the best in the nation,” Leu says.

The signature area of advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure will focus on the rehabilitation of urban mass-transportation centers, including highways, bridges, tunnels, rail, airports, and port and water navigation channels, as well as utility infrastructure. It encompasses four S&T research centers and six academic departments and will be led by Dr. Kamal Khayat, the Vernon and Maralee Jones Professor of Civil Engineering and director of Missouri S&T’s Center for Infrastructure Engineering Studies.

“Infrastructure is the foundation that connects the nation’s businesses, communities and people, driving our economy and improving our quality of life,” says Khayat. “Missouri S&T has existing strengths in this area and with further emphasis, we can become a best-in-class leader.”

The second round of selecting the two remaining signature areas is now under way and will conclude by summer.