Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Metalheads of Modern Science


What makes metals different from other materials? From the first alloying done in the bronze ages to today’s ultra-strong nanoscale frameworks, the uniquely bendable and strong behavior of metals has enabled technology to advance for millennia. Today’s technology now uses the unique behaviors of metals to go beyond “classical metallurgy.” We now find innovate by developing materials with carefully designed properties for a far wider range of applications. Our computers, cars, lasers, medicines, and other technology include innovations both in the materials and in how we use them. To understand important elements of science, technology and society that enable the world we live in today, we need to look more closely at how the materials behave.

This seminar provides an introduction to Materials Science and Engineering by exploring how metals enable a broad range of the science and technology all around us. Starting with the blacksmiths and metallurgists of ancient history, we will introduce the scientific innovations that have enabled today's technology. We will spend the rest of the course exploring how today's technology uses metals in new and innovative ways—far beyond the metallurgy of old. Students will learn how metals in their bodies can be used for diagnostics and treatments, how metals in geology can show us how planets form, how new metallic tools allow us to 3D print aircraft engines, and more! This will introduce students to the science of metals and explore the career paths that can follow from these technologies.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Leora Dresselhaus-Marais

"I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). Trained in chemistry and optics, I develop new types of microscopes to 'see' the behavior of tiny imperfections (defects) deep inside real-world materials that have never been resolved before. The 'rare events' of defects cause some materials to crack or shatter, while others remain strong under the exact same conditionswith dynamics that can happen from millionths of billionths of seconds (10-15 s) all the way through years of performance.

"The question that excites me most about MSE is: 'How can we use the tiny imperfections in materials to control them?' This tantalizing question has inspired my career in Materials Science and Engineering and is one that we will explore in this class—through the lens of metals and the technology all around us."