Date & Time: 
Fri, 11/13/2020 - 2:00pm
W. Taylor Shoulders
Job title: 
Materials Engineer
Army Research Laboratory



As Materials Scientists and Engineers, we work on the most basic building blocks of devices, products, or systems. Our work is multi-disciplinary by nature, but this along with technical area of study are not all that make various jobs in materials science unique. In this talk, I will share how I came to understand the diverse and constantly evolving job market for materials scientists, and how I determined I should fit into it. I'll give examples of researchers, alive and dead, whom I admire, and reflect briefly on how their chosen research areas and work environments have influenced how I think about my own career pathway. Retrospectively, it is easy to say I would have loved to be part of a team featuring a Nobel Prize Winner at Bell Labs in the 1970s or 1980s. It was and continues to be harder to predict, as I have been honing my technical skills in school and early in my professional career, where to find my perfect balance of personal satisfaction and impactful research. I have been lucky to find a home in the Army Research Lab (ARL), where my expertise is needed to solve a diverse set of technical problems. As I am early in my career, the impact of my research on solving these technical problems is yet to be determined. This pessimistic tone is intended to reflect my struggle to accept that my research is good enough and is an appropriate use of my skills. Only recently during reflection in the long COVID-19 isolation, have I begun to feel more proud of my research and more comfortable in my environment. That being said, I will proudly present results from a few programs I have worked on over the last 3 years, including multi-phase ceramics for personal protective armor and infrared window materials for demanding environments.


Dr. Shoulders is a Materials Engineer in the Ceramic and Transparent Materials Branch of the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate of the U.S Army Research Laboratory. His work spans the gap between materials processing and characterization with the goal of understanding the link between ceramic structure, chemistry and performance. Current projects include the development of ceramic-ceramic composites, predominantly in the SiC/B4C materials system, for enhanced soldier protection; and the development of robust windows transmitting in the long-wave infrared (8-12 μm). Prior to holding his current position, Dr. Shoulders served as a postdoctoral researcher at the Army Research Laboratory from 2017-2018. He completed his PhD in Materials Science at the University of Central Florida (2016) studying transparent ceramic scintillators. He also holds a BS in Ceramic and Materials Engineering from Clemson University (2011).


Materials Science and Engineering