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08 February, 2011

VCUQatar Presents You Made it, You Take it Back

As part of the Crossing Boundaries Lecture Series, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar presents a lecture by Dr. Andrew Dent entitled You Made it, You Take it Back on Wednesday, 9 February, 2011 at 6:00 PM at the Atrium at VCUQatar.

As the lead researcher for the global materials consultancy, Material ConneXion, Dr. Andrew Dent has worked with companies large and small to address their materials challenges. Whether finding that elusive material that makes a project possible, or working to improve the sustainability of an existing product, he has a decade of experience working with some of the biggest names in the business: Nike, BMW, Nokia, Miliken, Victoria’s Secret, Tupperware, W.L Gore, and many more.

In his lecture, Dr. Dent will look at the dwindling access to critical resources required for today’s consumer-driven marketplace. While some of these materials might appear esoteric, or even replaceable, the lessons learned in dealing with their sourcing will serve all industries as we approach terminal supplies and limited access to many different materials.

So-called “rare earth elements” are an integral component of many of the electronic goods that we use every day – from phones to MP3 players – but they are currently supplied by only a handful of nations. China is currently the largest supplier of these materials, controlling some 95% if the market, and has wielded this power in ways both economic and political. Recently, China halted the sale of these materials to Japan in response to a maritime accident involving Chinese and Japanese ships – leaving Japanese manufacturers scrambling to find alternatives. It came as no surprise that the Japanese quickly capitulated to the requests of the Chinese government.

Other mined resources might be more readily available – copper and tin, for example – but that does not protect companies from pricing fluctuations that might arise from completely innocent situations. As Cyclone Yasi bears down on Australia, forcing the closure of one of the largest mining operations in the world, the prices of these two metals have risen to record highs.

Clearly, this is not simply an economic issue but also a serious environmental one. As global populations rise, the demand for materials will far outstrip the earth’s ability to provide them. Some groups have currently calculated that the global population needs, effectively, one and a half earths to support our consumption and waste levels, and that will rise to two earths in 2030. Dr. Dent will present a new paradigm for material sourcing that may, in fact, become the norm in the next generation of design thinking across all disciplines.

Following Dr. Dent’s talk, he will be joined by members of the Education City community for a discussion entitled “Materials, Development, Qatar”. This loosely-structured discussion will address both local and global issues of sustainability, natural resources, and industry. Questions from the audience will be welcomed and encouraged. Participating in the talk will be:

Dr. Andrew Dent - VP, Library and Materials Research at Material ConneXIon, New York. Dr. Dent’s primary function is to direct research into innovative materials and processes, with an eye on their implementation in design and architecture – both in general and specifically for Material ConneXion’s clients. Prior to joining Material ConneXion, he held a number of research positions both in industry and academia. At Rolls Royce PLC, Dr. Dent specialized in turbine blades for the present generation of jet engines. Other research projects included work for the US Navy, DARPA, NASA, and the British Ministry of Defense.

Dr. Richard Griffin – Program Chair, Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University at Qatar. Dr. Griffin's background is metallurgy and material science. His research areas are corrosion and education. In corrosion, he has worked environmental cracking, coatings, erosion, lifetime prediction. In education, he has worked with the foundation coalition and pursued the introduction of technology, active learning, and teaming in the engineering classroom.

Bowman Heiden - Innovation Director, Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). At QSTP, Mr. Heiden is responsible for driving innovation strategy and intellectual property policy. QSTP is a home for technology-based companies from around the world and an incubator for start-up enterprises. Providing premises and services, QSTP's support programs help organizations develop and commercialize their technologies.

Kelly Hutzell - Kelly is an assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, as well as a licensed architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a LEED accredited professional. As a senior associate at over,under, a Boston-based multi-disciplinary design firm, she specializes in international urban design projects and the design of cultural and institutional buildings, including projects in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Cairo. The work of the firm has been featured in Architectural Record, ArchitectureBoston, and The Boston Globe, as well as many online publications.

VCUQatar’s Crossing Boundaries Lecture Series reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of the featured speakers who for the most part are not designers or artists but representatives of excellence in design thinking. Each speaker will present a paradigm of design thinking that seeks to evolve solutions to problems in innovative, creative ways.

You Made it, You Take it Back’ is the fourth in the series of seven lectures and will be presented on 9 February at 6:00 PM at the atrium at VCUQatar. The lecture is open to the public.

Dr. Andrew Dent, VP, Library and Materials Research at Material ConneXIon, New York