One year of algebra, one year of chemistry, and one year of either biology or physics.
“I’ve learned a lot about material science and how college classes actually work, which was really nice. This course was truly life changing and an overall great experience.” —Fatema Mukadum
The progress of civilization is inscribed in the history of humans and their materials—the Stone Age, the Iron Age, and today’s Age of Plastics. Materials determine the technologies that provide protection, communication, information, construction, mechanization, agriculture, and health. Knowing why glass shatters, wood splinters, steel is tough, rubber stretches (and recovers), nylon can be drawn, and tin flattens makes possible the selection of materials for enormously different applications. Engineers are mostly successful at designing and manufacturing objects and devices, but on occasion there are catastrophic failures—bridges collapse, airplanes fall from the sky, containers leak, pipes burst, and the electrical grid goes down, leaving us cold and in the dark. And there are the annoying little failures—light bulbs burn out, clothes become permanently stained, foods spoil, and batteries die.
In this course, participants experience a hands-on introduction to materials science, engineering, and technology, from the bulk properties of the solid state to the nanoscale properties of large and small molecules and single atoms. Special attention is given to nanoscale materials and devices because of their potential for defining the next generation of important materials and machines. It has been said that the nanoscale is the new frontier of science and technology.
Students investigate these worlds in a discovery-based environment, working under the guidance of an experienced instructor and a team of assistants, research scientists, and technologists from Columbia’s Department of Chemistry and from industry and national laboratories. The studio classroom format integrates laboratory and lecture and encourages teaching and learning especially useful to those considering undergraduate studies in engineering and science.
Luis Avila is a vibrational spectroscopist and a Columbia University Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry. He received the M.Sc. in chemical physics from Babes Bolyai University (Romania) and his Ph.D. in chemistry education from Columbia. His current research interests include vibrational spectroscopy of materials and chemical education. He is a reviewer for the Journal of Chemical Education and the Journal of Science Education and Technology, and he has published papers and monographs on vibrational spectroscopy and authored laboratory manuals on instrumental methods and procedures.