Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

When Chemistry Meets Engineering

CHEMENG 31N
Prerequisites: 
High-school math, physics and chemistry.

Chemistry and engineering are subjects that are all around us. But what happens when they meet? We will explore this question by diving into experimental problems that scientists and engineers have to face on a daily basis, and that we may not always recognize. For example, how can we obtain the fuels that allow us to travel the world? How can we produce the energy that powers our houses? How can we provide clean water for our daily needs? How can we control organisms to produce useful molecules for us?

Many processes that we take for granted—from riding an electric bus running on batteries to using our smartphones containing two billion transistorshave been developed through understanding science at a fundamental level and then applying it to large and important industrial processes, such as refineries to separate oil and processes to produce plastics. In this seminar, we will explore some of the basic concepts that are important for addressing these challenges through experimental work. We will build materials for energy and environmental applications; learn how to separate mixtures into pure compounds; produce fuels; and see the chemical properties of molecules that are part of our everyday lifewith a different eye.

Our class will be highly practical, and lab activities will be central to your learning. You will not be given detailed instructions on how to perform the experiments. Instead, you will be provided with a few problems and with enough initial details to conduct your experiments and understand their fundamental basis. However, you will be required to make decisions about your experimental set-ups on the basis of basic high-school chemistry, math, and physics principles. You will make mistakes, and that is OK; we will include reflection sessions and discussions such that you will learn how to collaborate to design and execute flawless experimental investigations.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Matteo Cargnello

"I joined Stanford in January 2015. My curiosity about the small world led me to study chemistry first, then nanotechnology during my Ph.D. studies. At that time, I joined a research group to work on nanoparticles and nanocrystals for catalysis, and I quickly realized the potential that nanotechnologies have to shape the world we live in. I then decided to move here, to the Chemical Engineering Department, to learn how to have a real impact in our daily life through scientific discoveries at the small scale. My group's focus is in synthesizing new materials with controlled structures and properties at the nanoscale, and in applying these materials to chemical processes for making sustainable fuels and chemicals and to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I am motivated in teaching this Introductory Seminar by the fact that I want other students to know the potential of chemistry and engineering in shaping our lives."