17 Mar UW-Eau Claire creates Materials Science Center
Eau Claire, Wis. — Science faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are pooling resources to provide students with more opportunities to work on research relating to materials science and to create new ways for the university to assist local industries.
UW-Eau Claire’s newly created Materials Science Center will support research, facilitate collaboration among science faculty across disciplines, promote interactions between the university and local industries, and encourage undergraduate students to do research, said Dr. Doug Dunham, assistant professor of physics and director of the new center.
“Faculty in the departments of biology, chemistry, geology, physics and astronomy already are working with students on research projects that focus on materials science,” Dunham said. “Our students are already conducting research using instruments that are often found only at large research institutions.”
But the new center will provide a more coordinated approach to research and coursework, and make it easier for industries to seek help from the university, Dunham said, adding that he hopes it also will help faculty secure funding to acquire additional state-of-the-art instruments to advance their materials science research.
Materials science involves the study of the structure and properties of materials, the creation of new materials and tailoring materials for specific uses. It encompasses things such as metals, ceramics, plastics, polymers and semiconductors.
Advancing materials and developing new materials are important to economic development, including technological arenas such as microelectronics, homeland security, national defense, commercial products and nanotechnology, Dunham said.
“Our students are the future scientists who will keep the United Sates at the forefront of technological advances,” Dunham said. “By upgrading and expanding our instruments, we can better train more students and give them a broader education.”
Collaborating with students on research has long been an emphasis in the sciences at UW-Eau Claire, and much of the research focuses on materials science, Dunham said. The center will make it easier for students and faculty in the various disciplines to coordinate their research, and increase opportunities to fund those projects, he said.
“I’ve been working on research for two years,” senior physics major Sara Chamberlin said, adding that she’s worked with physics and chemistry faculty and students on projects. “The research has been my favorite part of my undergraduate experience. I’ve been involved in all aspects of research — assembling equipment, taking and analyzing data, and presenting results.
“All of this will benefit me when I’m in graduate school. Not many undergraduates get this kind of experience, so it’s definitely an advantage.”
In addition, the center will encourage the creation of interdisciplinary courses in materials science, Dunham said. For example, “Introduction to Materials Sciences” and “Surface Analysis” could address key topics in chemistry, physics and geology.
While the materials science-related courses would benefit UW-Eau Claire students, they also could be available to community members and employees of local industry, Dunham said.
“UW-Eau Claire now has the equipment resources to assist local industries in the analysis of materials,” Dunham said. “But the Materials Science Center will provide a central connection to industry and the community that the individual science departments cannot offer. The center will provide a natural link between local industry, students and faculty.”
Individual departments already have acquired high-end equipment such as an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system, a scanning tunneling microscope, transmission electron microscope and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer thanks to grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society, the Research Corp. and the U.S. Department of Education, Dunham said.
But the center will create new opportunities for faculty to acquire new instruments and to upgrade existing ones, Dunham said.
“The enhanced instruments will strengthen collaborations between the center and regional industry in the development of new products and markets and to enhance existing products,” Dunham said. “Interactions between these companies and UW-Eau Claire will bring new opportunities for high-tech development employment in the state of Wisconsin.”
UW-Eau Claire will host an open house April 22 to introduce the business community to the Materials Science Center. The open house will run from 3-5 p.m. in room 124 of Phillips Science Hall and will include a tour of the facilities.
For more information about the Materials Science Center, contact Dunham at (715) 836-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For details about the open house, contact Barb Severson in Continuing Education at (715) 836-5745 or email@example.com