The impact of materials research on society has had a long history and continues to deepen and accelerate. A thoughtful and sustainable future for materials research and development can only be shaped by a rich understanding of present challenges in the context of historical, social and ethical considerations. In this interactive workshop, participants will explore their own research topics through a social lens. They will learn to bring a variety of tools into their own research and professional development including historical methods, visioning, stakeholder mapping and community engagement, ethical contextualization for societal impact, equity-based design, sustainability frameworks, strategies for leading creative and inclusive teams, and knowledge dissemination and dialogue for and with different audiences. Participants will also be encouraged to reframe their own research and teaching trajectory and to develeop strategies for seeking opportunities to cultivate interdisciplinary collaborations with socially directed fields of study.

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Examples of topics to be discussed include:

  • Foundations for socially directed materials research: Visioning, inspiration, self-exploration and the 5 Whys;
  • Building inclusive scientific and technological collaborations and teams;
  • The intersection of the technological and social in frontier scientific and technological materials research;
  • Increasing complexity and consequences of ethics in materials research, in particular in the context of inclusion and equity;
  • Social innovation, equity-based design, bias and community engagement in scientific and technological research;
  • Sustainability and the environment as social justice;
  • Humanistic components of innovation and maintenance; and
  • Creative futures and consequences: Using speculative fiction as a tool for developing thoughtful impact in materials research.


Christine Ortiz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Station1
Christine Ortiz is a scientist, engineer, social entrepreneur, educator and professor. As Founder of Station1, Ortiz has 25 years of experience in higher education and is the (tenured and chaired) Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and former Dean for Graduate Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During this time, she has had the privilege of supporting over 7000 students from more than 100 countries and working with hundreds of faculty and staff on initiatives in diversity and inclusion, global education, technology-enabled learning, learning assessment, curricular and pedagogical design, new financial models, 21st century personal and professional skills development, and many more areas. As a scientist and engineer, her research expertise focuses on the area of multiscale design and mechanics of biological and bioinspired materials and manufacturing. Ortiz has over 180 scholarly publications and 30 national and international honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering given at the White House by President George W. Bush. She received a BS degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and MS and PhD degrees from Cornell University, all in the field of materials science and engineering. Ortiz is an alumni of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities for Science and Engineering (GEM), which provided her with a transformative fellowship and summer internship that enabled her to continue her education and was critical to her career path. Ortiz serves on numerous boards, including as a regional accreditation commissioner for the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Ellan Spero, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Station1
Ellan Spero studies the ways that people envision human progress, through the institutions, built environments and narratives that they create. As a historian of technology, business and higher education, Spero's work is about drawing connections between the ways that people learn, produce and maintain systems of knowledge and material culture. She is passionate about the amazing potential of connecting people across disciplines and physical geographies; this resonates throughout her work at Station1, the opportunities that she aims to facilitate for their students, collaborators, and how she approaches the serendipity of her own research and place in the world. Spero is interested in the ways that people create and maintain collaboration across professional sectors, a theme of her own research in the history of nascent academic–industrial partnerships at the beginning of the 20th century. She was recently a visiting scientist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) at the Smart Living Laboratory, a research and development center for the built environment of the future. As a joint Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Spero created coursework that engaged students in analysis of technology, culture and the city. She holds a PhD degree from MIT in history, anthropology, science, technology and society,  BS and MS degrees from Cornell University in fiber science and apparel design, and a MA degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in museum studies and textile conservation.