Fall 2020 Letter from the Chair

Dear alumni, colleagues and friends,

Michele Manuel, Ph.D.
Michele Manuel, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering

The year 2020 will forever be known as one like no other, not only here in the department, but around the world. Although this current page in history will be momentous for its unprecedented challenges, I am consistently reminded of our resilience, strength and the meaningful role that we continue to play in our vast, intersecting communities.

A historic pandemic intertwined with calls for social justice against systemic racism has changed the face of institutions of higher learning. This shift has caused us to become more introspective, engage in crucial conversations and learn more about each other and our own core values. Yet, even in this challenging environment, several things remain the same. We’ve graduated students, including one of our largest graduating classes ever in spring 2020. We’ve also welcomed more of the best and brightest young minds with our incoming class, sustained our impactful research and, albeit through multiple teaching modalities, preserved the highest quality level of education possible for our students.

In the midst of significant change and uncertain times, more than ever, we are proud of our accomplishments, broad capacities and intentionality on creating a greater and better future. With that in mind, I am pleased to present to you some of our inspiring stories from over the past year in this edition of the Rhines Report.

Both of our graduate programs remain as strong as ever. In the 2021 U.S. News & World Report rankings, our Nuclear Engineering graduate program rose to No. 12 and Materials Science & Engineering held steady at No. 8 among public institutions. A big thank you to our faculty, staff, students and alumni for their dedication and commitment.

UF has announced a $70 million artificial intelligence (AI) partnership with NVIDIA, a worldwide leader in AI and accelerated computing based in Silicon Valley (pg. 10). Through the AI University initiative, UF will become home to the fastest supercomputer in higher education and stand at the forefront of artificial intelligence application.

Amanda Krause, Ph.D., assistant professor, has brought AI into the world of MSE by applying machine learning techniques to help unlock the secrets of abnormal grain growth in materials under extreme temperatures and magnetic fields (pg. 4). Her research could lead to major advances in materials from ceramics to metals and beyond.

Josephine Allen, Ph.D., associate professor and Genzyme Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, was elected to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows, and Christopher Batich, Ph.D., professor, was inducted to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. Congratulations to both on their milestone achievements.

Since our last edition of the Rhines Report, we have also hired two lecturers, Aroba Saleem, Ph.D., and Ira Harkness, Ph.D. A warm welcome to them both! We also welcomed the arrival of Erika Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor and Rhines Rising Star Larry Hench Professor of Materials Science and Engineering to campus after a two-year visiting professorship at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Moore is researching immune and tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and cell-material interactions.

As challenging of a year as it’s been, I have no doubt that we will persevere. We are sowing the roots of our legacy – one that will continue to grow strong in our pursuit of engineering excellence and community advancement. Thank you for all of your generosity and support.

Michele Manuel digital signature




Michele V. Manuel, Ph.D.


Department of Materials Science & Engineering