Friday, July 21, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
“…to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense…”
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the ‘National Science Foundation Act of 1950.’” And so the National Science Foundation (NSF) was established and, together with passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958, the engine of research, innovation and entrepreneurship was created.
Engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush, chair of the Carnegie Institute and an original member of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), successfully advocated for science policy to be led by experts and scientists rather than public officials, helping shape the development of the NSF.
Creation of the NSF and its subsequent research grants to American universities helped foster a change in the status of well-respected universities around the world to the point that today 15 American universities are among the top 20 universities in the world and American research scientists have won more than 400 Nobel prizes, more than any other country in the world and three times more than the second-place holder, the United Kingdom.
Here at S&T, from its earliest years, faculty actively engaged in research. Founding director Charles P. Williams conducted substantial research, as did civil engineer Elmo Golightly Harris, mathematician George Dean, microbiologist Ida Bengtson and geologist Charles Dake.
Our Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy faculty were involved with solution-inspired, application-driven research that introduced mine safety practices to the mining industry. Metallurgical engineer Martin Straumanis and chemist William James, whose research focused on corrosion of nuclear metals, X-ray crystallography and crystal growth, were the first faculty to gain major federal funding. The two obtained grants between 1956 and 1962 from the NSF and the Atomic Energy Commission.
Two developments in the 1960s contributed to a meaningful increase in federal funding for campus researchers. The Materials Research Center, located in Straumanis-James Hall, was established through national and state research funds in 1967. Physicist Harold Q. Fuller’s significant grant from the NSF established foundational research activities in the physics department. The ceramic engineer Delbert E. Day and civil engineer Wei-Wen Yu are examples of innovative Curators’ Distinguished Professors of our earlier years.
Today, a total of 77 of our researchers are among the top 2% of researchers in their respective fields and S&T faculty receive tens of millions of dollars in external research grants and contracts. Our major research programs include advanced manufacturing technologies, hypersonic materials, decision science, environmental science, artificial intelligence, critical minerals, green metallurgy, education research and women in STEM, to name a few.
In education, in growing our highly competitive workforce, and in providing leadership in solution-inspired research and the discovery of new knowledge, our research faculty are answering the national call “…to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.”
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