Sophomore Seminars

Resilience, Transformation, and Equilibrium: The Science of Materials


In this course, we will explore the fundamentals of the kinetics of materials while relating them to different phenomena that we observe in our everyday lives. We will study the mechanisms and processes by which materials obtain the mechanical, electronic, and other properties that make them so useful to us. How can we cool water below freezing and keep it from turning into ice? Why is it that ice cream that’s been in the freezer for too long doesn’t taste as good? What are crystal defects, and why do they help create some of the most useful (semiconductors) and beautiful (gemstones) things we have?

A material’s structure and the processes it goes through affect its properties and performance. Likewise, a person’s experiences can shape who they are and who they become. In addition to learning about the kinetics of materials, in this class we will also draw parallels between these concepts and how our experiences shape who we are and how we relate to each other. For example, can we use a transformation diagram for metals to model how we embark upon friendships and relationships? (The answer is yes!)

This introductory seminar is open to all students, and prior exposure to chemistry, physics, or calculus is NOT required. For students who are not looking to major in a STEM field, or who are uncertain, this course is designed to be a window to the concepts that materials scientists and engineers use in their work, as well as how these concepts have parallels in real-life phenomena. For students who are planning to major in engineering, especially Materials Science and Engineering, this course will be a nice primer for future courses that cover topics in kinetics, thermodynamics, and mechanics of materials.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Yoda Patta

Yoda R Patta

"One day in graduate school, a close friend and I were sitting in our office as we waited for results from an experiment we were running down the hall. We were making high temperature superconductors with a secret ingredient—sugar! We started discussing how materials science can be used to describe human relationships. That afternoon, the first iteration of the human relationship 'transformation' diagram was created. Since then, I’ve incorporated more and more concepts relating human behavior and relationships into my teaching of materials science. Indeed, one of my favorite things about materials science and engineering is that in all its rigor and complexity, its fundamental concepts have parallels in things we see in our everyday lives.

I earned my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT, and became a lecturer there where I taught a core-level course in the same department. I won the John Wulff Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Goodwin Medal for Excellence in Teaching. I completed my postdoc at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where my colleagues and I conducted tissue engineering and wound healing mechanical research. After Stanford, I spent some time abroad, where I served as Dean of Engineering at an international university in Indonesia. Being able to teach and interact with students, and share a love for science and exploration of the world around us through the lens of materials science, is near and dear to my heart. I am looking forward to meeting new students through this new course."