Message from the Director

Over the past several months, MRI has been engaged in strategic planning in conjunction with the University’s planning. Our plan will guide us as we implement our goals in the 2016-2020 timeframe. I would like to take this opportunity to lay out the three fundamental principles that we have identified as crucial to our strategy in this period.

First and foremost, MRI is dedicated to the principle of scientific excellence. This includes not just highly cited papers in top rank journals, but emphasizes excellence in the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers who pass through our labs.  

Next, we are dedicated to making an impact on industry. That means we will be a partner with companies that come to us for our expertise. This may involve the particular knowledge of individual faculty, in which case we will facilitate that partnership in whatever way we can. But it also means making industry partners welcome in our open labs and solving problems that only MRI has the unique facilities and expertise to address. We already have partnered with more than 400 companies a year in our Materials Characterization and Nanofabrication user facilities, but we can have an even greater impact with our industry friendly IP policies that make working with Penn State and MRI the simplest process of any university in the nation. We are also forging new relationships with our Behrend campus in the industrial hub of Erie,PA. Penn State Behrend has proven that they know how industry works, and together, we will enhance the competitiveness of a sizable segment of U.S. manufacturing, in particular, in areas of metal processing and polymer injection molding.

Third, we will become a central hub for humanitarian materials engineering in the U.S. This means we will use MRI’s expertise in materials science and engineering to make a difference in the lives of people across the globe. This ambitious goal is driven by the desire of students, faculty, and our staff to contribute solutions to problems such as food security, clean water availability, and affordable healthcare in resource poor regions of the world. We have dedicated a section of each issue of this magazine to telling the stories that come out of this initiative.

Finally, this issue of Focus on Materials introduces an emerging field of research within MRI and Penn State, one that we believe in the years ahead will provide us scientific leadership in the growing science of functional thermal materials and devices. In functional materials, there has been major emphasis on electrical conduction, cross-coupled properties such as electromechanical behavior, mechanical properties, and electron and/or magneto optical properties, and far less emphasis on thermal transport and heat capacity.  With greater awareness of thermal management in electrical devices, housing, transportation, etc., we need to expand our intelligence and investigations into the nature of heat functionality in new materials and integrated material design. If major breakthroughs can be made, developing markets in and around pure electricity will benefit from these innovations.


Clive Randall,

Director of the Materials Research Institute and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering