Materials Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech offers a unique, comprehensive program emphasizing teaching and research in metals, ceramics, polymers, electronic materials, biomaterials, and composites. Department enrollment averages 200 undergraduate and 70 graduate students.  


Graduate student Samantha Talley (in blue) and MSE senior design students Christian Anderson Schoepe, Chris Berger, Kaitlyn Leary, and Sam Snyder working in the chemistry lab where they prepare and analyze samples of a polymer called PEEK.

Four MSE seniors won ASM International’s 2017 Undergraduate Design Competition for their senior design project, “Tuning Mechanical Properties of Aerogels from Poly (ether ether Ketone).” Sponsored by the ASM Materials Education Foundation, this national competition was launched in 2007 to “encourage and strengthen design curricula in materials science engineering departments.”

The idea for the project stemmed from research performed by Robert Moore, a professor in the chemistry department and the Macromolecules Innovation Institute. That research resulted in the discovery that the polymer, poly (ether ether ketone) or PEEK, was capable of forming high surface area aerogels that are hydrophobic and oleophilic (they shed water and soak up oil), characteristics that make them an excellent material for use in cleaning up oil spills in the ocean and other bodies of water.

Moore served as the advisor for the design team, assisted by his graduate student, Samantha Talley. He put his team to work very early in the year creating and analyzing aerogel samples as they independently explored the impact of four key processing variables. According to Talley, the team created over 2,000 samples within the first six months. 

Results of their work lead to publication in Polymer in May 2017 of “Mechanically Robust and Superhydrophobic Aerogels of Poly(Ether Ether Ketone),” co-authored by Moore, Talley, and the four senior design team members, Christian AndersonSchoepe, Christopher Berger, Kaitlyn Leary, and Samuel Snyder.

The entire team, including Moore and Talley, traveled to Pittsburgh in October to receive the award, which was presented at a luncheon held during the MS&T ’17 conference. The team received $2000 plus travel assistance to attend the conference. In addition, Virginia Tech’s materials science and engineering department received monetary support for future design teams.

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MSE was well represented at the MS&T ’17 conference in competitions. One MSE team claimed first place in the Geodesic Dome competition. This is the fourth year MSE has taken first place. Team members included Brendan Ryan, James Mangahas, Will Wegner, and Daniel Ching.  In the Ceramic Mug Drop competition, MSE took first and second place. The first place team included Justin Yon, Joe Galligan, and Mike Holmes. The second place team included Kaitlyn Commes, Arth Patel, Luke Bradshaw, and Mackenzie Jones. A third team, Jennifer Khirallah, Charlotte Clark, and David Gomez, also participated but did not place.  In the Ceramic Disc Golf event, the team of Justin Yon, Joe Galligan, and Mike Holmes won first place. 

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Two MSE graduate students participated in the finals for the very prestigious Paul E. Torgersen Research Excellence Awards in May 2017. The competition night included 11 finalist poster presentations from M.S. and Ph.D. students across the College of Engineering. Finalists were selected from more than 75 applications.

David Hicks (right) won the first prize in the M.S. Poster category. David presented his work on Meso-scale Continuous Electrospun Polymeric Fibers to Establish Multi-scale Porosity in Ultra High Temperature Ceramics. David is working on his master’s research under the supervision of Assist. Prof. Carolina Tallon through the MSE Accelerated UG/GR Program and will complete his degree in May 2018.

Yanxi Li (left) was a finalist in the Ph.D. Poster category. Yanxi presented his work on Architectured Nanocomposite of Functional Film. Yanxi has recently completed his Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Dwight Viehland and Prof. Jie-Fang Li.

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MSE Diversity Activities