Opportunity meets capability

Friday, August 18, 2023

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

China’s tight grip on critical minerals.

Critical minerals are critical to U.S. Security.

Critical minerals are vital to clean energy transition.

Securing the needed critical minerals domestically.

Put the headlines together, and we sense trouble. The good news: America has always been great at reinventing itself, and this situation is no different. I am not sure if this is our Sputnik challenge, but we are better off thinking that it is. At the very least the situation is a critical challenge for us all.

Our motto here at S&T is critical contributions to critical challenges and, to address this challenge of increasing importance, last week, here at S&T we hosted an international workshop on the Resilient Supply of Critical Minerals. With hundreds of practitioners and leaders of industry, academia, government and public service organizations in attendance, the focus of our third annual National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop focused on not only technical and supply chain issues but also on topics such as policy implications. The impressive presentations and conversations brought together the perspective of domain-knowledgeable industry researchers and practitioners with the deep expertise of academics. Mining companies’ concerns were discussed as well as those of high-technology manufacturers.

As you can imagine, to address the challenge in a sustainable manner, we need more than mining and mining engineers. In fact, the workshop participants included our mining, metallurgical, geological, chemical, explosives and environmental engineering faculty members, students and research staff, as well as faculty from our chemistry, economics and political science programs. One of the keynote presenters was our very own Tom Sonderman, a chemical engineering graduate and president and CEO of SkyWater Technologies, who described the importance of critical minerals for the supply chain of the semiconductor industry. To meet the challenges of the federal CHIPS and Science Act alone, Tom highlighted that the semiconductor industry will need ample talent. SkyWater’s HR director projects the industry will need 250,000 workers, including 50,000 engineers, in the next five years!

The workshop was a critical moment when the opportunity met capability. As I wrote in a recent message, S&T has the expertise and creativity needed to meet this challenge. Established in 1870 as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (MSM), we have more than 150 years of experience in addressing the nation’s critical minerals challenges. Today, in partnership with companies like SkyWater, Rio TintoDoe Run and Missouri Cobalt, as well as agencies such as the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri S&T is uniquely positioned to lead the domestic mining, extraction, production and synthesis of the critical minerals that are essential in the manufacturing of chips and green energy transition.

Beyond critical minerals and semiconductors, opportunity is meeting capability here at S&T in several other areas. Our researchers are developing new materials for hypersonic vehicles that are vital to our national defense, creating new approaches to steel manufacturing, and equipping small and medium-sized manufacturers with the expertise they need through our Missouri Protoplex and other advanced manufacturing initiatives. Soon, our efforts on resource sustainability will be strengthened significantly with the arrival of Dr. Shelley D. Minteer, who joins us on October 1 as founding director of the Kummer Institute Center for Resource Sustainability.

The fact is that any challenge we face highlights that we are, in fact, faced with an abundance of opportunity to provide solutions. And here at S&T, together with our industry partners, we are building the matrix of skills, knowledge and capability to meet any key technical and engineering opportunity. In this endeavor, our partnerships and collaborations have always been a work in progress along our 152-year journey. And along this exciting and invigorating journey of learning and doing, I offer a warm welcome to our new and returning students for the start of the new academic year, and their own new journey of learning, doing and societal leadership.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
mo@mst.edu | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910