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10/1/2008 9:43 AM
"Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."
The questions are everywhere. Where will the next generation of materials professionals come from? In the United States, for example, there is a real concern about the lack of students who have interest in pursuing science and engineering as a career. Will the next generation be equipped to function effectively in the global economy? As an educator, this is a particularly important personal question for me. What role will government play in stimulating and supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education? What roles do professional societies have?
Assets come in three general categories: financial, plant, and human capital (or IP). Human capital is the most critical one, and the one that takes the longest to nurture and develop. With all of the discussion on practically a daily basis in both the technical and popular press, I will focus this column on two aspects: how you can learn more about the issues and how you as a TMS member can contribute to the challenges and opportunities we face.
NEEDED: HUMAN CAPITAL
Let me begin by pointing out a recent opportunity to get a succinct overview of the issues. On Monday, October 6 at the MS&T'08 conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cherry Murray, Principal Associate Director for Science and Technology at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was scheduled to present the opening address of the conference: "The Role of Science and Engineering in U.S. Competitiveness." Murray served on a blue ribbon panel convened by the U.S. National Academy
of Engineering that issued the landmark report called "Rising Above the Gathering Storm." Four major recommendations were made:
Murray's keynote address was planned to focus on our most precious asset--human capital! Government's
role is paramount; we need the leadership to envision the future and make it happen. (Read more on Murray's assessment of post-Gathering Storm progress in "In the Eye of the Storm" on the Materials Education page of Materials Technology@TMS.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Let me now turn to the second focus of this column, which is how you as a TMS member can contribute and help address these challenging issues.
1. Be a Model for the Profession
We all have opportunities to tell our story about our careers and the value of science and engineering in solving societal problems. A recent study has shown that young people give much consideration to the impact their chosen career will have to the world and to humanity; they want to make a difference. Changing the image of opportunities in the field is something we all can do. Take a look at the article in the August JOM (see reference 1) for more information. Please get the message out to the next generation
that they can make a world of difference and make the world different through science and engineering!
2. Share Your Talents with the K-12 Set
Volunteer to support science and engineering efforts directed toward K-12 students. Whether it's Engineer's Week or a Materials Camp or judging the local science fair, offer to help. If programs do not exist in your community, perhaps form a nucleus of volunteers and start one.
3. Inform Elected Officials
Emphasize the importance of developing the next generation to elected officials. Like it or not, government policy has a strong impact on where funds are allocated and, in turn, which areas have the highest priority. Take advantage of opportunities to support the important opportunities provided through legislation such as the America Competes Act. The TMS Public & Governmental Affairs committee provides opportunities for members to voice their support through mechanisms such as Congressional Visits Days and e-mail campaigns. Look for a special kiosk at the upcoming TMS 2009 Annual Meeting where you will be able to quickly and easily write to your senators and members of Congress. Advocacy is not someone else's responsibility, it is our shared responsibility and requires our participation.
4. Be a TMS Member
TMS is a professional society that carries out programs to support current and future professionals at all stages. These programs require financial resources, and TMS member dues contribute to our ability to serve the profession.
For those of you who are current TMS members, you will be receiving your membership dues renewal notice this month. Please help support TMS by responding quickly and favorably to this request. It will save us the need to do separate mailings and allow our dollars to be directed toward programs rather than membership renewal.
For those who are not currently TMS members, I encourage you to join. TMS membership provides many financial benefits, including discounts on meeting registrations and publications. It provides a well-respected journal, JOM, in your mailbox every month. But perhaps most importantly it provides you
the opportunity to network with professionals who care passionately about our profession and are committed to help others achieve their career goals.
Now I'd like to hear from you. Do you have a story you can share as to how you have influenced a future professional? What do you think are the most pressing issues facing our profession? Of course, I'm always interested in how TMS can better serve you in your quest for professional development and career advancement.
See you on the Internet and at MS&T'08!
1. K. Roncone Zappas, "Spread the Word: Engineers Make a World of Difference," JOM, 60 (8) (2008), p. 64.
Diran Apelian is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the 2008 TMS President.
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