Submitted by Lee Park / Williams College on Sun, 06/26/2011 - 19:19
Attachment Size
materials chemistry.docx 120.17 KB

I have developed over the years an upper level (junior and senior level) materials chemistry course that has become part of our regular curriculum at Williams College.  The course has taken many different forms over the years and has evolved over time. (in past iterations, it was more clearly a chemistry course with a larger emphasis on more traditional synthesis - a much longer section on polymer synthesis for instance; in another iteration, for a few years it was team-taught with physics and was more like an introduction to solid state chemistry.)  In the current version, the course focuses on the molecular origins of bulk physical properties of materials (things like hardness, brittleness, optical properties, electrical properties.)  We talk about instrumental methods to probe these properties,  synthetic strategies to make new materials in the nanoscale and mesoscale regimes (top down vs bottom up, self-assembly based methods...)  We also talk about applications (semiconductor devices, new solar cell design, smart and responsive materials, biological applications) and the kinds of materials properties that need to be considered in designing any novel material (long term stability, biocompatibility...)  There is a heavy emphasis on the current literature in the course (I find that these topics are very low barrier to getting students into the current literature quickly.)  It's certainly a survey course, and I am in no way an expert in many of the areas that we touch on - but I think that students are able to get a good view of the creativity and richness of what's going on in this area broadly.  I find that students really enjoy that they can really engage with the literature, the applications presented, and the interdisciplinarity of the topics covered.

I also instituted a full lab program for the first time in 2010 - it is very very far from perfect, but I was able to run it with a group of 12 students, and hope to tweak the experiments in time for the next iteration in the spring of 2012.  The lab experiments focused on nanofabrication techniques, many based on self-assembly and templating strategies.  Some were adapted from experiments that are readily available on the web (the Wisconsin ICE site, for instance), and other were adapted directly from the literature. In the current state, I'd hesitate to share too much of the whole lab program (most of the experiments are nowhere near as robust as I'd like them to be), but I'd be more than happy to share information on individual experiment or to trade thoughts with anyone who's interested

I am posting a one page syllabus for my course to give a sense of the topics covered and time spent on them, as well as of the experiments performed in lab.  I would be eager to hear what other people have been doing in these areas, or to share what I've got (I'll be trying to post other content from this course, as time permits, if there seems to be interest from the community.)  I have found that many of the topics, examples, and demos I've developed or come across over the years can be introduced into many other courses as well (sometimes requiring a bit of handwaving or fancy footwork to avoid getting too bogged down in the conceptual details, but nonetheless effective as illustrations of elegant and creative things going on in chemistry today.)

The section on magnetism is by far the weakest, I'd say - I'd particularly welcome any input from anyone who's been teaching this topic!



Luke Thompson / Gettysburg College

Thanks for posting the syllabus. This is certainly of interest to me as I will teaching a Materials Chemistry course this spring (2012) for the first time ever at Gettysburg College.   I am particularly interested if you have a list of papers that you used for the course.  I am still hashing out the details of my syllabus but I wil put mine up here once I finalize it.

Fri, 11/18/2011 - 11:53 Permalink
Luke Thompson / Gettysburg College

I am finally getting around to posting the syllabus I used this spring in its first iteration.  It is certainly a work in progress but I feel like the course was a success considering that a course of this nature has never been offered at Gettysburg prior to this.  I am contemplating ditching the book this year and focusing more on the primary literature so we will see how that goes.

Wed, 08/29/2012 - 11:09 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College

Lucas: Thanks for the syllabus. Next summer (2013) IONiC is hosting a workshop at Penn State that will focus on developing literature discussion learning objects related to cutting edge research in materials science. We would love to have you! Stay tuned for more info.

Tue, 09/18/2012 - 11:20 Permalink
Luke Thompson / Gettysburg College


That sounds great. I would certainly be interested in attending a workshop and know of a few other people in the region who are also teaching materials chemistry courses.  Please keep me in the loop either here or via my email lthompso [at]

Tue, 09/18/2012 - 15:17 Permalink