Cotton and textile engineering education’s landscape has been changing to better reflect the change and growth in the field.
Prof. Gajanan Bhat, chair of the Dept. of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, at Athens-based University of Georgia (UGA), describes how fiber science and textile engineering education has evolved – and continues to do so. In 2018 the University of Georgia is celebrating 100 years of offering courses in textiles and clothing. The end of World War I marked the beginning of that education tradition, when UGA created the Division of Home Economics and offered a textiles course. Bhat says today UGA offers graduate degrees in polymer and fiber science and international merchandising.
Advanced research and education focuses on smart materials, polymer and fiber science, and management, showcasing that the focus has shifted from the traditional offering of textile engineering courses. The shifting of textile manufacturing in developed economies has forced this change, he says.
Textile engineering was one of the founding departments of Texas Tech University in 1925. Evolution of the field, however, has meant that fiber-related advanced degrees are now offered through the Dept. of Environmental Toxicology and Plant and Soil Sciences. Students with textiles and fiber science backgrounds can get graduate degrees focusing on materials science projects that concentrate on countermeasures to toxic chemicals and textiles that enhance human health and protect the environment.
Research areas in the UGA Dept. of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors focus on nanocellulose, niche areas in manufacturing such as digital printing, and bio-based plastics from algae, Bhat says.
As exemplified by the University of Georgia and Texas Tech University, the landscape of textile engineering education has evolved over the decades, reflecting the needs and the nature of the field. The current landscape offers tremendous opportunities, such as integrating electronics with textiles, cost-effective biodegradable materials, and taking cotton into the next phase by infusing functional capabilities at the farm level.