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Graduate Program

Student Research

Students may design a program appropriate to a particular path of research in materials in consultation with their faculty advisor.

In the Departments of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering, a materials science student can work on the synthesis, processing, and molecular simulation of advanced materials for aerospace, biomedical, information, energy, and environmental applications. Biomaterials can be designed with distinct capabilities, such as controlling cell behavior or overcoming drug delivery barriers.Modern facilities are available for cell and tissue engineering; recombinant DNA and molecular biology; inorganic materials for membrane separation, fuel storage, and gas sensor technology; synthesis, processing, and simulation of functional polymers and molecular materials new fuel cell materials and optimization; device science and engineering for electronics, optics, photonics, and optoelectronics; electrical engineering applied to microelectronics, energy conversion, and storage; reaction, transport, and phase transition in porous media; organic light-emitting diodes and interfacial phenomena in multiphase systems.

In the Department of Mechanical Engineering, a student working in materials science concentrates on the relation between microstructure and mechanical properties of metals, ceramics, glasses, and polymers. Current projects include nanostructures catalysis for fuel cell applications, scratching of polymer films, design of ecologically friendly nanostructured solders, impression creep and recovery, microgrinding and polishing of glass and crystalline materials, powder processing, deformation of ionic materials, residual stress measurements, failure and adhesion analysis, piezoelectric materials, corrosion and the design of fracture-tough materials. The College maintains specialized equipment including electron microscopes, an energy-dispersive X-ray microprobe, several Instron tensile testers, MTS and Instron servo-controlled fatigue machines, nanoindenters, a differential scanning calorimeter, a hot isostatic press, melt-spin apparatus, and state-of-the-art X-ray diffraction equipment.

In the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a materials science student may enter such research areas as the electronic effects of surface preparation in semiconductors and insulators, silicon nanostructures, porous silicon and optoelectronic applications, bulk diffusion effects in semiconductors, ultrafast electronics, and high-temperature superconductors in thin films. Current projects include superconducting and magnetic thin films, microwaves, MEMS, picosecond phenomena, and fluctuations in superconductors.

In the Institute of Optics, a materials science student concentrates on the properties of materials important to optical applications, including nanophotonics. Many topics in the broad areas of optical materials and photonics are appropriate, such as the following: the interaction of light and materials to create new optical effects, interaction of intense laser radiation and matter, new crystals and glasses for manipulating light from the deep UV to the IR, and new technologies for precision manufacture and testing of novel optics. Some examples of current or previously explored subjects include the tribomechanical basis for polishing of optical glasses, improved photonic crystals for fiber laser amplifiers, and characterization of solid-state diffusion in optical index gradient materials.

In the Department of Chemistry, a materials science student can participate in research on making and understanding novel devices based on organic and biological materials. Applications include electroluminescent displays, photovoltaic cells, and biomolecular sensors. Studies vary from the physics of charge transport in organic semiconductors, to the mechanism for current photogeneration, to devising new fabrication and patterning methods that take advantage of the processability of organic materials.

In the Department of Physics and Astronomy, a materials science student can work on the theoretical and/or experimental aspects of condensed-matter physics. Current projects include universality of interfacial fluctuations and cyclic growth; large-scale Monte Carlo simulations of vertex line dynamics in high-Tc superconductors; transport and tunneling phenomena in ultrathin metal films; and interfaces in organic semiconductors and ultrafast dynamics in solids.

A materials science student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences will have access to state-of-the-art thermal ionization and inductively coupled plasma source mass spectrometers that are used to determine the trace metal content and isotopic composition of geological, environmental and biological materials. Research topics include the fate and behavior of carbon nanotubes and fullerenes in nature, mineralogy, crystallography and the study of optical properties of silicates, carbonates, phosphates, and oxides in polarizing light microscopy.

Materials science students may also choose to do research in the School of Medicine and Dentistry in the departments of Dermatology, Microbiology and Immunology, or Biochemistry and Biophysics. Research topics range from optical biosensing and nanoparticle skin toxicity imaging to computational studies on the molecular-level properties of lipid membranes and the proteins and other molecules that bind to them. The study of nanoparticle-based vaccines delivered under the tongue, or “sublingually”, can be an effective new materials approach to preventing HIV transmission.