An interview with Anter El-Azab, Editor-in-Chief of the new journal Materials Theory

SpringerOpen is happy to announce that the new journal Materials Theory is now open for submissions on the SpringerOpen platform. In celebration of this milestone, we caught up with the Editor-in-Chief, Anter El-Azab, to find out more about him, to get to know the background of the journal, and to hear his views on open access.

1

Tell us how Materials Theory came about.

Materials science is an interdisciplinary field focusing on understanding the structure and properties of materials and the discovery of new materials. Throughout the long history of materials science, theory and experiments have worked hand in hand to create a comprehensive body of knowledge pertaining to materials. With the advent of computers, computations have become a third research methodology for solving complex theoretical models and generating structural and property-related materials data. Over the past fifteen years or so, many journals have tended to favor research contributions that emphasize experimental or computational results to the extent that it has become increasingly difficult to publish research contributions of purely theoretical flavor. Recognizing that the role of theory is to provide materials understanding and to produce models that can be used in computations and the interpretation of observations, I began discussion of the idea of establishing a “theory-focused” Materials Theoryjournal with prominent members of the community around the world approximately five years ago. These discussions were driven in part by frustration with many materials publishing venues that have made it harder to publish theory-oriented research. The idea was well received, as most of the scientists and academics I spoke with felt the same frustration with journals that had previously accepted theoretical contributions. Several of these colleagues are now editorial board members of Materials Theory.

What makes Materials Theory unique compared to other journals in the materials science field?

Scientific advances within the field of materials science now parallel those made in physics and chemistry in the first half of the last century—the era that shaped modern science into its present form. Back then, contributions in the fields of condensed matter physics, chemistry and mechanics pertained mainly to materials properties, while theoretical advances and discoveries made then were mostly about the underlying science. In that era, however, two extreme material forms were of interest to physicists and chemists: the near-perfectly ordered or the disordered matter systems. With the establishment of materials science as a standalone field in the second half of the last century, the interests of materials scientists shifted toward understanding the structure and hierarchical microstructure of materials and to controlling materials properties. As a result, understanding the connection between materials structure and properties has posed increasingly more difficult questions compared with the crystalline or amorphous states that physicists and chemists dealt with earlier in the past century. Accordingly, theory—as it always has—will continue to have a major role in materials science, not only in shaping our understanding of the ever increasing complexity of materials, but also at the level of enabling predictive materials science. An avenue to promoting materials theory will thus carry a lot of weight in shaping the future of the field of materials science, which is what the journal Materials Theory is all about.

How did you make the decision for the journal to be open access?

While proposing Materials Theory to Springer, I had the opportunity to discuss the different publishing options. It was brought to my attention that open access offers a rapid way of disseminating research results because users around the world are able to access the publications without financial or institutional barriers. I have also become aware that many open access journals were being started by well-known publishers and that many online journals (originally requiring subscription or pay for access) now offer authors the option of publishing articles in these journals as open access. Convinced that open access will continue to be a rising trend in scientific publishing, it was not hard to decide to make Materials Theory an open access journal.

What do you see as being the big advances in materials science over the next few years?

As a materials theorist and a computational materials scientist, I believe that big advances will be made in materials design in the next several years through closely coordinated use of materials theory, computing and experimental data. I further believe that within the near future, the materials science community will begin to realize the critical need for additional theory, and that funding agencies both in the USA and around the world will increase their investments in the theory part of the field of materials science.

Finally, tell us a little about yourself.

Anter El-AzabI am a professor of materials science and engineering at Purdue University, Indiana, USA. My formal training was in the field of nuclear engineering, within which I chose materials as my research path before I branched out to the wider fields of materials science, mechanics and computational science. In each of these fields, I became increasingly aware that “theory” is indispensable. My research and my teaching at Purdue focus on microstructure science of materials. Prior to coming to Purdue, I was a tenured professor at Florida State University in the scientific computing and materials science and engineering programs. Before moving to Florida State, I spent six years as a senior research scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington. I obtained my Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles, after an M.S. and B.S. from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. I was the chairman of the 4th International Conference on Multiscale Modeling of Materials, at Florida State University in October 2008, and I chaired the Dislocations-2016 Conference at Purdue in September 2016. I served as guest editor with Philosophical Magazine, the Journal of Applied Physics, Modelling and Simulation in Materials Science and Engineering, and the Multiscale Modeling and Simulation: A SIAM Interdisciplinary Journal. My current research focuses on mesoscale theory of metal deformation, radiation effects in materials, and computational methods of materials science.


Do you have a paper that would be suitable for Materials Theory? You can find out more about how to submit by visiting the journal homepage: http://materialstheory.springeropen.com.

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