Georgia Tech Exploits Big Data to Accelerate Materials Design, Manufacture

Georgia Tech has been awarded $2.8 million from the National Science Foundation to start a program that will train a new type of data scientist capable of creating advanced materials and bringing them to market at a fraction of the time it now takes, typically 15 to 20 years.

Georgia Tech will develop technologies to accelerate the design and manufacture of high performance materials for applications - ranging from fuel-efficient vehicles to emerging technologies such as 3D printing – through the new graduate training program.

“The goal of this program is to employ advances in ‘big data’ and information technology to significantly reduce the timelines now required for new materials to be created and incorporated into commercial products,” said School of Computational Science and Engineering Chair and Regents’ Professor Richard Fujimoto, the principal investigator for the grant.

“The program will be transformational in bringing ‘big data’ researchers together with materials scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to quantify the microstructures that comprise materials and develop new algorithms and software for their design,” said Fujimoto, who leads Georgia Tech’s Institute for Data and High Performance Computing (IDH).

The new Georgia Tech program includes a focus on entrepreneurship to enable graduate trainees to transform technical innovations into commercial products and services. Called FLAMEL - From Learning, Analytics, and Materials to Entrepreneurship and Leadership, the program references 15th-century alchemist Nicolas Flamel, known as the creator of the philosopher’s stone, a substance purported to transform materials into gold.

“We hope to boost the United States’ competitiveness in an evolving global marketplace by enabling our engineers and scientists to explore the potential commercialization of their ideas and inventions,” says Terry Blum, a co-investigator of the program and the founding director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship.

FLAMEL is aligned with the federal Materials Genome Initiative, focused on cutting the development time for advanced materials in half and reducing their costs. FLAMEL will leverage Georgia Tech’s recent investment in MatIN, a cyberinfrastructure platform designed to enable rapid interdisciplinary collaboration in materials development and manufacture. MatIN is being currently developed as a joint collaboration between Georgia Tech’s Institute for Materials (IMat), Institute for Data and High Performance Computing (IDH), Office of Information Technology (OIT), and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

Central to the program will be an emerging area known as materials informatics, which aims to develop new approaches to materials design and manufacturing using data analytics combined with modeling and simulation, according to Surya Kalidindi, program co-deputy director, and member of the IMat Innovation support team.

Other members of the Georgia Tech team include co-investigator Wendy Newstetter, a learning scientist and leader in the development and use of problem-based learning methods; and co-deputy director Hongyuan Zha, an expert in “big data” algorithms and software.

While the emphasis will be on doctoral students, the program is designed to create a pipeline for workforce development that includes a broadened participation of women and minority students. The five-year program will provide funding for 24 doctoral trainees but is expected to create educational opportunities that will impact hundreds of Georgia Tech students in the years ahead.

For application materials or more information about the FLAMEL program, visit or contact program coordinator Holly Rush at

The computationally focused training grant is funded through NSF’s Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, award number DGE-1258425. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.