A new on-line resource developed by a Purdue University professor soon will provide some answers to that question.
"Materials scientists and engineers are involved in many aspects of the manufacture of a wide variety of products, from coffee cups and kitchen utensils to cars and computers," says Gerald L. Liedl (LEE-dul), head of Purdue's School of Materials Engineering.
Last fall, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded a $441,550 grant to The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) to develop an on-line career resource center for the field of materials science and engineering. As education director of TMS, Liedl is coordinating the effort, which will provide high-school students and others nationwide with information about careers in the field.
"When it's completed in late 1997, the Career Resource Center for Materials will be a computer-based source of information about the wide range of careers available in materials science and engineering," Liedl says. "The audience is primarily high-school students and underclassmen at universities -- both groups of students are at the point where they're making career choices."
The Career Resource Center for Materials is still in a developmental stage, Liedl says, and will be updated periodically. The first verision is available on the World Wide Web through the TMS homepage at http://www.tms.org
When completed, the page will be interactive, asking users for information about themselves and what they want to know. Users then can choose from a set of options, including an "Ask the Expert" page, through which they can send e-mail inquiries to professionals with materials science degrees. Users also will be able to access video interviews with practicing materials engineers and explore academic programs that offer one of the materials curricula.
The American Institute of Physics has had similar information posted on the web at http://aip.org/aip/careers/careers.html for more than a year for students interested in careers in physics.
Currently Liedl and his colleagues are identifying and surveying more than 5,000 professionals who represent the wide range of jobs in materials science and engineering. The video-interviewing process began this summer, Liedl says. Many of the video clips will include the person at work and an illustration of what they do on the job.
Users also will be able to access information about the profession and the manufacture of specific products and how they involve materials engineering.
The information first will be developed for and posted on the web, and later will be put into CD-ROM format for use in high schools, Liedl says. He expects the CD-ROM to provide more video than the web site. In addition, full interviews also may be put onto videotape and made available to schools.
Several professional engineering and science organizations are developing similar resource centers to promote various professions, Liedl says, and eventually the information may be packaged together on CD-ROM as a global career resource center for high schools and universities. Some of the fields include mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, geophysics, mathematics and electrical engineering.
Liedl says updating the interviews probably will be one of the most expensive aspects of the resource center, estimating it will take $50,000 to $100,000 annually to keep the information current. The resource center receives support form the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers, but Liedl also is looking for industrial support and support from other materials societies.
Source: Gerald L. Liedl, (765) 494-4100; Internet, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; Internet, email@example.com
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