Materials Science and Engineering Ethics

Currently in my Junior year here at Lehigh, I take Mat 101 Professional Development. The course in the beginning has focused on writing engineering resumes, what to include what not to include. For an engineering resume it is important to have a lot of experience written down. Include lab work done from classes that you have taken. Junior year is a good time to start looking at companies to see if they have internships or co-ops. Every year Lehigh has a career fair with companies such as Exxon-Mobil or IBM. The class has been a huge help in preparation to meet the companies. After that the class focuses on the ethical problem within the engineering field. One of the biggest problems in the world is our usage of energy and how it hurts the environment. There are around 7 billion people in the world and continuing on the current path without changing our ways harms everyone. One day the class decided to discuss the subject of over fishing and how the fish populations could not recover from the staggering amount of fishing going on. The class debated multiple ideas on how to handle the topic. Ultimately though in the end there was never a true answer to question only way upon which to limit the fishing industry.

A second part of the class is focus on writing a research paper and finding correct sources. The current paper is about LED and was used to compare to advancements in there technology and which proved to be a better use. Researching these topics at first was hard to do however later when introduced to the Lehigh databases found at the library the topic became easier to research and write about. The paper is supposed to help teach the student about gathering information and about writing. I personally enjoy Mat 101 Professional Development as the debates between people are interesting in how they are conducted even when sometimes there is no current solution.


Switching Majors

Over the Christmas break I decided to change majors from Chemical engineering to Materials Science and Engineering. This was no an easy choice for me to make and after much deliberation I decided to switch. To to do so I made an appointment with one of the professors in the department and began to talk with him about switching. I had wanted to make sure that if I do switch that I would still be able to graduate on time. In the end I decided to make the switch and I have been very happy with the materials science and engineering. The classes I had taken as a chemical engineer were able to be transfer as credit. Since most of the engineering classes are similar between the two majors. All engineers have to take classes such as Economics 1 and two English classes. I had wanted to switch majors because I had not really been enjoying what I had done in chemical engineering and I had looked more towards other pursuits. I began talking with professors in the department and decided to switch. Switching majors at Lehigh is not hard to all it takes is to fill out a form signed by the department heads. For my materials science and engineering classes I had to get overrides for some but the professors were very helpful and were able to accommodate me. I am enjoying my new major and am looking forward to continuing in the field.

Mat 020 Computational Methods in Materials Science

Materials 020 is a three credit probability/computer program course for Materials Science and Engineering students. The class teaches the basics of Mathematica, which is a computer programing language from Wolfram Alpha. The program allows the user to not only write code but to also solve complex math problems. For example Mathematica comes with a function that allows the user to input integrals and solve them. The Mathematica language is most similar to MATLAB which was used in Engineering 10. Engineering 10 is a prerequisite for Materials 20 and the knowledge of programming will be useful in the course. Programming is sometimes part of the homework as well. The homework for the class is due once a week and is returned promptly. It is mostly based on the work done in class but the Professor is available if the students are having trouble with the material.

Mat 033 Engineering Materials and Processes

Mat 033 is the first Materials Science and Engineering class taken for Sophomores, it is also taken by bioengineering students as well. It meets three times a week with a recitation section. The class is taught in Whitaker 303 which is the big auditorium room right when you enter Whitaker from the front. The class focuses on using physical and chemical principles to understand metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites. The professor goes into detail about the bonding between the ions or atoms and how these intermolecular forces affect the properties of the elements. These properties include melting temperature, elastic modulus, and thermal expansion. The unit cells are the basic arrangement of atoms in materials. The crystal structures in Mat 033 are Body Centered Cubic (BCC), Hexagonal Close Packed (HCP), and Face Centered Cubic (FCC) which is shown below.



Materials Science and Engineering Track

MAT Prereqs_2014

The flow chart above shows the basic track that most materials science engineers follow. All engineering majors are required to take English and Economics. Freshman year is the same for most engineers with Engineering 05 and Engineering 10 being the first engineering courses taken. Engineering 5 allows freshman to examine all the different engineering one of which would be Materials. While Engineering 10 shows students programming using MATLAB and arduino. Another programming language mathematica in MAT 20.  MAT 033 is the beginning materials class and is a prerequisite for most of the other material engineering classes. The Materials Science and engineering program at Lehigh offers a good balance of understanding and experience with its lab work. The Professors always have time for students that do not understand and there is great interaction between them.

Winding Down

At this point it looks like I am done conducting all of my experiments.  All of the data I collected shows that meeting the conductivity and transmission values that were set as a benchmark is possible.  I organized all of the info I had into a poster which I will try to post in a few days.  Along with that I have to write a paper formatted as if it could be published by a leading scientific journal.  Many students who have taken this research track in the materials department have actually had the paper that they wrote published.  This is a huge accomplishment for an undergrad and definitely not something you often see at other schools or departments. 


As my research starts to wind down, there are some lingering deliverables necessary to finish so I can receive full credit for the course MAT291 (undergraduate research).  While performing research has been extremely enjoyable and a great learning experience, it is these deliverables that really have shown me how to conduct research.  Last semester I had to prepare a research proposal and literature review, while also presenting my proposal.  By the end of March I will have had to complete a poster on my research.  I am also going to have to prepare my research in the form of a paper in such a way that it could be submitted to a scholarly journal.  In my experience with grad school interviews, these are the things people have been most impressed by.  Conducting research in the MatSci department at Lehigh not only allows you to do your own independent project, but also teaches you the skills necessary to communicate your findings scientifically.  This is the real advantage of participating in independent research. 


I almost have all of my samples done now.  I was able to generate a range of thickness from about 500 to 50 nanometers in thickness.  Samples below about 250 nanometers were very transparent to visible light.  This bodes well for when I characterize them with the FTIR.  Im anticipating that they will show the approximately 90% IR transmission that I am hoping for.  I have also developed samples of varying composition.  As I outlined in earlier posts I have a range of ratios from about 3:1 to 1:2 copper to aluminum.  I’m not completely sure what to expect when I look at transmission as a function of composition, but I am fairly certain the copper rich samples should show optimum conductivity.  It will be exciting to tie together the results and see how everything shapes up in these last few months. 


I’ve been hard at work lately trying to make as many samples as possible.  Unfortunately a few problems have derailed my progress.  My samples have been way too copper rich so I’ve been trying to figure out how to reduce the approximately 3:1 copper to aluminum ratio in my samples to a range between 1:1 and 1:2.  A small change in fortune made this attainable.  As it turned out my CuAl2 target was depositing faster than I thought,  this helped me get closer to the 1:2 ratio.  Another method I tried was changing the angle at which the copper deposits by tilting the gun containing the Cu target.  This showed a drastic decrease in copper deposition rate.  While it was a little frustrating to get off track, this was a good example of how you will encounter problems during research which can be fixed by taking a step back and analyzing the situation at hand. 


I did some work with the 4 point probe to figure out just how conductive my samples were.  Unfortunately these results weren’t as positive as my transmission measurements.  My samples with low amounts of copper were fairly insulating, while my samples which had an abundance of copper showed poor transmission.  I’m going to have to keep working to find the balance between the two properties.  Hopefully making the samples as thin as possible will help with this.

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