"Sustainability Aspects of the Educational Program Impact of Materials on Society"

Sophia Krzys Acord1; Kevin Jones2; Debra Dauphin-Jones1, M. Muñoz-Navia3
1Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, University of Florida, USA
2Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Florida, USA
3CONACyT Research Fellowship, Institute of Physics, UASLP México

Thursday, August 24th, 12:30 to 14:30 hrs
Room: Tulum G


Have you ever wondered what happens to your trash once it leaves your hands? Do people understand how recycling works, and how to separate objects so that they can be recycled? Moreover, even if people know how to recycle, do they actually do it? What social institutions need to exist to make it easy for people to recycle?

Sustainability is not the return to some kind of idyllic landscape untouched by human hands. Instead, living sustainably today involves a process of “co-evolution”. Hence, humans and their behaviors need to adapt to a changing environment for their health as well as the health of our environment that feeds and shelters us. Something is sustainable not only if it does not injure the earth, but also if it is affordable and available to the broad public and could be renewed over time. Often there is resistance to change and this can generate a conflict with implementation of sustainable practices. Materials science and engineering can help develop technologies that allow people to live in improved relationships with each other and with their environment. But it is also critical to recognize that successful implementation of these technologies is both a social challenge and an engineering challenge.

Another key element of sustainability is finding ways to bring scientific research into dialogue with its users in the community, to get their feedback and needs into the research process. How can we in universities reach out to let students, legislators, and the public understand the importance of scientific research?

The Impact of Materials on Society (IMOS) curriculum was developed by the Materials Research Society in collaboration with faculty in materials engineering and the liberal arts at the University of Florida. This course, which is freely available on the Internet, brings social and cultural perspectives on human needs and values into dialogue with research discoveries in materials science. Many aspects of this course relate directly to how we can understand sustainability in a holistic (integrated) manner. The Sociedad Mexicana de Materiales is currently working on translation and adaptation into Spanish of the course.