Jackson State University physics grad Derrick Stokes is a new breed of materials scientist.

In the photo taken during his time at The University of Alabama, where he was a Bridge to the Doctorate fellow, he is seen working with Dr. Viola Acoff, professor of metallurgical and materials engineering, in a laboratory.

Thanks to Dr. Acoff, Stokes is one of six students from historically black colleges who have earned graduate degrees in materials science and engineering as a result of a special program at The University of Alabama.

More than a decade ago, Acoff won the first in a series of National Science Foundation (NSF) awards for the Introducing Science Faculty to Materials Science and Engineering workshop. The program is designed to acquaint more minority students with the field of materials science and engineering.

“Such training would enhance the U.S.’s competitive edge as researchers design more materials-based products for the global marketplace,” said Acoff.

Currently, Derrick serves as a staff research and development engineer with UTC Aerospace Systems, one of the world’s leading providers of aerospace systems and services for large commercial aircraft.

Over the past decade, Acoff and her team have hosted 285 HBCU faculty from 82 of the nation’s 101 HBCUs on The University of Alabama campus.

The Introducing Science Faculty from HBCUs to Materials Science and Engineering program is focused on glass, ceramics, metals, and polymers (plastics), and coupled with experiments, visits to industrial materials plants, and a 6-10 week summer research opportunity. Attending HBCU faculty leave with the tools to familiarize their students with the discipline of materials.

Acoff has a Ph.D. in materials engineering and specializes in welding metallurgy, physical metallurgy, additive manufacturing, and materials characterization using electron microscopy.

In 2014, she served as an organizer for The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society’s first Summit on Creating and Sustaining Diversity in the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Professions, which was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Click “Mentor inspires bold change in STEM studies at historically black colleges and universities” by NSF’s Bobbie Mixon to read about Dr. Acoff’s inspiration and here for the Introducing Science Faculty to Materials Science and Engineering program.

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