Fall 2011
MSE 301 "Materials Science Principles"

This course is designed to help students achieve a quantitative understanding of how processing, (micro-) structure, properties, and performance of materials interrelate, and how performance needs influence design choices. The course covers all major classes of materials and is rich in physical, chemical, and structural concepts that require a fair amount of mathematical know-how.

As part of my tenure as a Searle Junior Fellow at the Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, together with Dr. Kathleen Stair I developed "Discovery Lab" modules on materials with high transformative power for our society, namely nano-, bio-, and energy-related materials. Key to these labs is that the students are challenged to activate their higher-order cognitive skills to tackle an unfamiliar problem ("reverse engineer a competitor's new quantum dots"). In a team, they then research it, decide in discussion with the TA on an approach, and work together in the lab to solve the problem. This effort was supported with funds from the Murphy Society and the MSE Department to purchase and operate two mobile fume hoods, a UV/VIS fiber optics spectrophotometer, a spin coater, a fluorescence microscope, and a mobile teaching AFM.


Winter 2012
MSE 371 "Biominerals: Hierarchical Architecture and Function"

Living organisms make use of incredibly creative, efficient solutions to engineering problems. Having had several hundreds of millions of years of evolution to get things right, they got a bit of a head start as far product development is concerned. Consider for example about your bones - they grow with you, get stronger when you work out, and mend themselves when you do happen to break them. In a different example, sea urchins have used fiber-reinforced graded ceramic materials to build self-sharpening teeth. This may be astonishing; it is, however, by no means unique. Organisms from all domains make use of the materials properties of crystalline and amorphous solids (e.g. inorganic minerals) to provide structure and physical integrity, to feed, to sense gravity and acceleration, to guide light and even perceive the earth's magnetic field. In MSE 371 students will learn not only about the design, i.e. the hierarchical structure and functional organization of biominerals, but also get to appreciate the integrated biosynthesis processes and even their importance for global processes such as the carbon cycle. We will examine some of the fundamentals of the interaction of organic and inorganic matter in biological systems, and study classic papers as well as current hot topics in this exciting and diverse field of research. Undergraduate and graduate students from all backgrounds are very welcome - the greater the diversity the more interesting will our discussions become.


Spring 2012
MSE 495 Special Topics "Materials Biology: From Biosynthesis to Bio-Inspired Materials"

This class is addressed at graduate students and advanced undergraduates with background in Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics, who want to acquire a working knowledge of key concepts in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology. We read both classical papers and modern literature, drilling down to the essentials hidden behind cryptic acronyms and exotic-sounding techniques. We primarily work with literature that has relevance to Materials Science, in particular bio-inspired materials, but will also consider suggestions submitted by participants.



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Northwestern University
Materials Science and Engineering Department
2220 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208-3108