Non-Majors Delve Into Materials Science

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Undergraduates from a variety of majors gathered in the Kim Building rotunda to discuss world-changing materials as part of their final project for ENMA 150: The Materials of Civilization. The course, taught by Department of Materials Science and Engineering professor and chair Robert M. Briber, is part of Maryland's two year-old Marquee Courses in Science and Technology program. Marquee courses, which fulfill undergraduate CORE requirements, are aimed at non-science majors and examine science and technology's roles in historical and contemporary issues, such as energy, the environment, and medicine.

ENMA 150: The Materials of Civilization, covers the role of materials throughout history to the modern day, and explores the relationship between advances in materials and advances in civilization. The course, which includes hands-on demonstrations and guest speakers, provides students with an understanding of the basic science that controls material properties. Students also learn about the future of technology-based breakthroughs in the materials that are driving the fields of nanotechnology, nano-medicine, microelectronics and biomaterials.

For the final project, the 80-member class divided into teams that were asked to produce a research poster covering the discovery, properties, composition or structure, applications, and future of a material behind important technologies and products. Teams also discussed issues of the material's scarcity or abundance, chemistry, effect on human health, and environmental impact. Topics included Teflon®, Kevlar®, synthetic diamonds, superconductors, solar energy, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), fiber optics, medical implants, titanium, and the evolution of batteries. The resulting poster session gave students a chance to interact with and teach each other, while continuing to expand their understanding of materials.

"Teaching 'Materials of Civilization' in the University of Maryland Marquee Science and Technology program is really enjoyable," says Briber. "The students are great and working with the other faculty in the program really helps to bring the ideas of science and technology to life, and new innovations for teaching to the classroom."

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Published December 10, 2009