Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame

Moving the Classroom into the Lab

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MCF Welcomes Undergraduate Students from the “Physical Methods of Chemistry” Class.

On February 21, 2012, three months after the new ND Energy Materials Characterization Facility (MCF) was launched, ND Energy welcomed the first class of undergraduate students to the MCF laboratory. This activity was incorporated into the course of “Physical Methods of Chemistry,” taught by Prof. Zachary Schultz, to a group of 22 students. 

During the first introductory class, students received a broad overview of the MCF instruments and their capabilities. Analytical techniques were demonstrated by the facility manager, Galyna Krylova, and afterwards, students participated in a discussion regarding the results. The experimental methods – namely differential scanning calorimetry, surface profilometry, Raman and FTIR spectroscopy, and diffuse light scattering – were of particular interest to the students. Students were keenly engaged and developed many challenging ideas on how they could use the materials research methods for examining the physicochemical phenomena that we encounter in everyday life. For instance, phase transitions in liquid crystals, decrease of crystallization temperature in the binary mixtures used as antifreeze, chemical composition of different kinds of car fuels, and determination of hydrodynamic sizes of quantum dots based on light scattering in colloids. All of the students’ ideas and proposed research initiatives were welcomed by the facility manager, and there are now seven (7) teams of students working on experimental projects within the MCF. During their final exam on May 10, these students will present a poster describing their research results and the peculiarities of the analytical methods that they had learned throughout this research experience.

The facility manager plans to offer this activity annually and encourages other classes to participate. This activity is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to broaden their knowledge and enhance their research experience at Notre Dame. ND Energy invites all professors to consider making this laboratory experience a part of their regular classroom requirements for undergraduate students at Notre Dame.   

For additional information about this program or to schedule a similar activity, please contact facility manager, Ian Lightcap, at ilightca@nd.edu or (574) 631-1493.