Course: MSE302
Instructor: Sturm
F 2015

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

The course provides a hands-on introduction to the use of laboratory techniques for processing and characterization in materials science. Structure-property relations will be explored through experiments concerning electronics, mechanical testing, optical testing, polymerization, and microfluidics. The underlying theories behind the lab techniques will be explained in biweekly lectures. Topics include electronic and mechanical properties, electron microscopy, electron diffraction, materials processing, polymer chemistry. The goal of this course is for the student to develop a solid understanding of materials properties, the common techniques used in research, the theory behind the techniques, as well as the opportunity to perform these techniques. The course is partitioned into 4 sections, each led by a different professor who lectures and designs lab assignments based on his field of expertise. Note that professors leading the course varies year from year. On a big picture scale, the materials in the first two sections (Sturm: ELE and Yao: MSE) focus on hard materials with some overlap in their course while the latter two sections (Priestley: CBE and Vyawahare: PHY) are independent of one another and of the first half. Sturm and Yao focus on the material processing and characterization of solar cells. Priestley focuses on soft material (polymer) fabrication and characterization. Vyawahare focuses on microfluidics and their applications to biological research. The modular nature of the course may make the course challenging with the quick turn over time between sections. Additionally, concepts may bridge multiple sections thus the course requires thorough understanding of the material. Due to the nature of material science and the diverse faculty members who teach this course, it would be to one’s benefit to have knowledge from a variety of fields. This, however, is not entirely necessary to do well in the course. It would be very helpful to have taken either MSE 301 or MAE 324 (the pre-requisites for this course). The course draws from photovoltaics, optics, polymer chemistry, rheology, fluid mechanics, etc. Basic physics and chemistry is sufficient. Knowing how to use excel or Matlab will be beneficial for the lab reports.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Lectures and lab seem separate at times, but they certainly are connected. Each professor has his own method of lecturing and it may be either refreshing or frustrating to have a new lecturer each session. The lectures are generally more theoretical and little time is dedicated to explaining the lab procedures and the lab experiments. Not everything in the lecture is necessary to complete the lab reports. Frequently the information in he lectures will go into much more depth than needed. Additionally, the lectures might not all be directly related to the labs. The professors will also present recent advancements in the field or their own research. All lectures are presented by power point. The board may be used to go over derivations of equations. The labs are run mostly by AIs (TAs) and depending on the lecturer, he may also be present. Professor Yao and Vyawahare essentially split the lab work with their AIs. Generally, lab will not require you stay past the allocated time. Data is generally collected as a group therefore data is often pooled. Lab reports do not require additional textbook or paper reading, but such additional reading may be beneficial. Vyawahare’s section is an exception as his lab work requires looking up literature. Homework may be assigned, but if it is assigned it is to gear students thinking in the direction of the lab report. In the labs, there are not always answers since the experiments may be incomplete in design. Therefore, due to incomplete data, might be something new that students need to accept. Lab reports generally take more time than expected and often require collaboration with classmates. Though under-utilized, the AIs are helpful as are the professors. Attending office hours or asking to meet to review the lab report is almost just as important as lecture.

Learning For and From Assignments

The course is almost entirely lab reports. The final is a presentation on a lab technique of the student’s own choosing. Lab reports vary greatly in time investment, difficulty, vagueness, and time investment required. Lab reports do not build upon one another and therefore it is difficult to learn from one lab report and apply it to another. This fact is made even more difficult by the fact that different professors emphasize different components of a lab report. It is best to clarify with the professor and AI before exerting too much on one component. The main function of these lab reports is to use the knowledge given during class and solve the open-ended questions presented by the lab assignments to the best of one’s abilities. At times, the professors will not know what the answer is either, but the report really pushes the student to think critically about he problem at hand. Since a majority of the grade in the class I based on laboratory reports and given the vagueness of some of the reports, it is important to start early and try to find how concepts in the lectures may be significant to the report. Starting early will allow students to think about the problem slowly and gather more information on the subject during lectures. Another significant aspect of this course is asking the professors to clarify he bounds of the question they have posed. The questions are geared to assess student’s ability to think critically, but some of the questions posed may simply be open questions to see student’s thought processes. Lastly, collaboration is key for success in this class. The course at varying points will cover topics that only some students from different departments will have taken. Therefore, collaboration brings different viewpoints from different disciplines together to solve problems. Additionally, looking at literature is helpful since many of the lab problems posed are related to recent or even current problems in the field of study. The presentation at the end of the semester is a good way to explore a new topic and practice presenting science in an easy and approachable manner. The presentation needs to be related to material characterization and should relate to the course in some way. This assignment is in liu of a final exam and deans date assignments. The presentation test the student’s ability to communicate effectively and to teach fellow students about a new techniques. Questions will also be asked to test student’s abilities to think critically on the spot. For this last assignment, students should find something genuinely interesting that they may speak on. Again, working ahead is advised and very importantly, students should ask professors what they are seeking in their presentation. Certain topics may be in themselves entire courses and therefore students should seek to clarify with professors what is important to be covered. To conclude, to stay atop of the work early since many difficulties to arise in answering vague questions. Starting early allows students to also gauge the vagueness of the problem and hopefully give them the opportunity to clarify what is expected of the student. Lastly, collaboration is key to solve the interdisciplinary problems posed by the reports.

External Resources

Web resources and journal articles may be a good sources for additional reading. No reading was assigned or provided as external resources, unless asked for by the student. The external resources of the course were sought by students entirely on their own volition.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

Students should expect to learn about the theory behind laboratory techniques and be active in class and lab (the course is small and therefore participation is crucial for learning). The lab techniques will be helpful for future work that requires material fabrication, processing, and characterization. Most importantly, for students interested in pursuing independent work in CBE, MAE, ELE, or CHM this course will provide a well rounded understanding of common techniques. Since this is a core laboratory course, expect time commitment to be substantial. Would not recommend taking this course with another laboratory class simply due to hours needed to spend in class. The class is also lacking in organization and prepare to cope with uncertainty. Due to the interdisciplinary field of material science, the course will push students to expand their science repertoire. All fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will be utilized in this course.
Laboratory Techniques in Materials Science and Engineering

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