University departments are going to great lengths to convince potential new recruits that materials science and engineering is for them. In addition to the traditional showcase ‘Open Day’ for pre-university students, outreach staff are facilitating hands-on workshops, problem-solving seminars, and research ‘tasters’ for a far wider audience. High school students are shown how materials science spans traditional subject divides, while teachers receive tips on how to integrate materials-oriented examples into the curriculum. The idea is to show would-be electrical engineers, doctors, and chemists that a degree in materials science could lead to an equally exciting and fulfilling career developing optical materials, biomedical implants, or sensor technology.As the academic year begins, students enrolling at universities worldwide have a treat in store. There is a course on offer that could explain how to cut the cost of street lighting, improve the mobility of an aging population, reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, speedup electronic communication, and detect the first signs of a biological terrorist attack. No surprises, then, for guessing that this course is materials science and engineering. But teenagers versed in the language of physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering may not have made the connection. And there in lies the root of a possible recruitment problem.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(03)00923-4