MSE Graduate Student Profile: Christopher J. Metting

"Science changed [for me] from a concrete certainty to an ever changing understanding of the world we live in. I decided I wanted to be a part of these new discoveries...."

- Chris Metting

Chris Metting
  • Hometown: Hillsborough, NJ
  • B.S., Chemistry (physics major and materials science concentration), and secondary education certification, Rowan University
  • Advisor: Professor and Chair Robert Briber
  • Started Program: Fall 2005

We chatted with Christopher to learn more about his experiences in the graduate program in materials science and engineering, and to find out why he chose the University of Maryland for his studies.

Who is your advisor, and in which lab do you work?

My advisor is Professor Robert Briber. I work in his Polymer Characterization Lab, and at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR).

Please tell us about your research.

I'm working on creating modeling software to extend the functionality of neutron reflectometry, which is used to measure layer thicknesses and composition in film samples. This software would allow users at neutron facilities around the country to not only obtain information about the layered structure of the films but also information about patterned structures that are on the surface of or even buried in the film. Data can provide information about feature size, shape, thickness, uniformity, and composition. It It could also determine the magnetic properties of a film.

The development of off-specular neutron reflectomery will add a characterization technique to the current array of choices to allow for the analysis of technologies where ordered patterns are involved (ie. nanotube bundles, magnetic memory, and ordered nanoparticle arrays). This measurement technique will be sensitive to elemental composition, magnetic characteristics and can give information about systems which are buried in a film. Because it is a scattering technique, the result is an average over a large portion of the sample which helps determine the long range characteristics, as apposed to a microscopy technique which can only give information about a very small area.

Currently, there are no other characterization techniques that can penetrate deep into a sample, have sensitivity to magnetic characteristics, and give a statistical analysis all at the same time.

What is your highest hope for your research?  What would be the most rewarding outcome or result?

My hope for my research is that, when I graduate, I will have created a working piece of software which can be used routinely at neutron facilities around the country to help characterize new and powerful material systems. I also hope that this research will turn this young characterization technique into a widely recognized and utilized tool.

How did you become interested in materials science and engineering and/or the research you're doing now?

I started as a secondary education/science major in New Jersey. As I went through the program, I took many upper level classes in both physics and chemistry. These classes showed me the major complexities and challenges that are not traditionally taught in introductory classes. Science changed [for me] from a concrete certainty to an ever changing understanding of the world we live in. I decided I wanted to be a part of these new discoveries and so, here I am.

Why did you choose UMD? What appealed to you about the Clark School?

Being from New Jersey, I'm used to being close to major cities. I love the city environment. Because College Park is right near Washington, D.C., the location was perfect for me. I also like the extensive collaborations the university has with government agencies and labs like NIH, NIST, and NASA. They provide opportunities that are unique to the school.

What is the best thing about your experience here so far?

My best experience at this school is not one event but rather the fun I have with the other students in the department. We have a graduate society which helps put events together like river tubing trips, tailgating, and poker. It makes graduate school less like a job and more like an experience.

What would you like to do after completing your studies here?

I would like to work on research for the development and advancement of alternative fuel sources.

Would you recommend the Clark School or the MSE graduate program to other students, and if so, why?

I would recommend the Clark School for people who like living near cities, have a desire to work on government research, or have an interest in the policy of science. These features make the University of Maryland unique. Also, there are many high profile research projects throughout the school which provides numerous and diverse research opportunities for students to work on.

What advice do you have for undergraduates considering graduate studies in MSE?

I would recommend they find projects that interest them and that they are excited to work on. To me, the research one does is more important than the school one chooses.

What do you like about living in the Washington, D.C. area?  What do you like to do when you're not in the lab? 

I like going to Adams Morgan [D.C.] on the weekends. There are many bars and restaurants for people in their mid-twenties. The Metro [subway] gives easy access from College Park, which makes enjoying the city that much easier. Also, the Smithsonian [Museums] is free, which is great when people come to visit from home (at this point I've been to them more times then I can count). Also, Silver Spring [Md.] is a nice, low key town to go to the movies, have dinner, or play pool.