Instructor: Craig Arnold
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course provides a broad introduction to material science and engineering. The course covers a large number of topics at a surface level of depth. The beginning of the semester focuses on inter-molecular bonds and the 3-dimensional atomic structure of solids. An overview of polymers and their properties is provided as well. The course then quickly moves on to failure mechanisms in materials. Finally, the course covers thermodynamic principles of material formation and phase transformations, concluding with a relatively in-depth study of phase diagrams. A main challenge of the course is keep track of the numerous variables that are introduced and what each of them means in the real world. The equations presented are rarely more complex than exponential functions. The class assumes that the student has already completed a normal freshman year schedule of engineering courses. It is also recommended that the student has taken or is taking a course in thermodynamics.
Learning From Classroom InstructionProfessor Arnold is a very engaging lecturer. His style of teaching is quite interactive and can be entertaining. Quite often he will pose a question to the class and allow students to guess until the right answer is found. An additional common strategy of his is to ask the class a question, gather responses and then have the students vote on what they think the right answer is. Occasionally, the intuitive answer is correct, sometimes the correct answer is counter intuitive and very occasionally the correct answer wasn't even one of the options we were voting on. His system rarely seems contrived or stale because it's never clear what the right answer is and because he does an entertaining job of pretending to have "forgotten" the correct answer so that he needs to work it out with us. To some students, this sort of direct interaction may sound overwhelming, but it isn't nearly as scary as it might sound. For starters, the correct answer to his question is almost always on the following slide of the slide deck which he publishes before the start of each lecture. Additionally, he never calls on students who aren't raising their hands. Some students may find this interaction boring or pointless, but the common sentiment of the class is that it causes a much higher level of engagement and a greater understanding of the material. The 5% grade on participation is meant to encourage responses to his questions so that he doesn't have any need to call on people. Additionally, Professor Arnold is very receptive to questions from his class and happy to take short tangents as long as they stay on the topic of material science. Finally, precepts are also taught by Professor Arnold. They focus on examples of how to apply material engineering in the real world. Commonly the class would wander around campus looking at various applications of material engineering and discussing the merits of the material that was chosen for a specific purpose.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe structure of the grading for this course is very straightforward and clear. It is very similar to a "standard" engineering course. The grading breakdown is as follows: Exam #1 15% Exam #2 20% Final exam: 35% Homework: 25% Class/Precept Participation 5% The first midterm was initially supposed to be a take-home while the second was supposed to be in-class. However, Professor Arnold took a vote during the 1st week of class and allowed us to decide as a class that both midterms would be in-class exams. The exams were all closed note, with only a single sided cheat sheet allowed. Just before the first exam, Professor Arnold told us that the point of the cheat sheet is not to test whether or not obscure equations are written down, but rather to strongly encourage the whole class to study while they prepare the cheat sheet. The final allowed no outside material, although a 3 page equation sheet was provided. The problem sets were relatively straight forward and easily done when working collaboratively, which was allowed. A very nice aspect of the course is that the lecture slides, which are provided on blackboard, present the same material as the textbook, however they do so in slightly different ways and with different explanations. That is to say that if a concept is stumping you on a pset and the textbook is of little help, it is easy to find an additional explanation in the course slides. The psets are also an excellent resource for studying for exams. Several of the questions on the final were very similar to pset questions with only the values changes or some other small alterations made. The participation aspect of the grading is covered in more detail in "Learning from Classroom Instruction."
External ResourcesThis course is one of the best taught courses in an engineering field at Princeton, so external resources are not commonly needed. However, Professor Arnold's office hours are very useful for getting questions answered or for reviewing material that may have been confusing. The TA's also provide office hours, although they were often not needed to complete the problem sets.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis course is one of the few core course for the material science certificate program, so it brings together students from a number of different majors. While the majority are MAE majors, having a background in a different major, such as chemistry, can actual be useful as the course focuses a great deal on molecular interactions. It's also nice to get to mix with students of different majors. While the course does assume an engineering background, the 300-level nature of it should not scare anyone away. The course is taught so that the vast majority of the material is understood by everyone. The course is not intended to weed anyone out.
Structure and Properties of Materials