Center for Materials Science and Engineering

The Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) continues to be an innovative and dynamic program in interdisciplinary materials research and education. Funded since 1994, CMSE is one of the largest of a nation-wide network of 28 materials research science and engineering centers (MRSEC) sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). MIT has a large and diverse materials community with over 110 faculty members in 12 departments in the Schools of Science and Engineering.

CMSE plays a central role in providing focus and critical infrastructure to materials research and educational activities by creating a dynamic research environment in which interdisciplinary collaborations and innovation are encouraged and the best research is funded. To this end, we have adopted the following strategic goals:

Much of the research at MIT addresses intermediate-term engineering problems, often with the participation and support of industry. However, longer-range problems, especially those that require a multi-investigator approach, are often overlooked. In this environment CMSE has a special mission: to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research and education in the fundamental science of materials and in the engineering of materials for long-range applications that will meet the needs of society. To accomplish this, CMSE promotes collaboration among MIT faculty and between MIT researchers and the researchers of other universities, industry, and government and nonprofit laboratories.

Collaborative research is encouraged through several mechanisms: interdisciplinary research groups (IRGs), shared experimental facilities (SEFs), and outreach programs. The IRGs, described below, are composed of faculty members who, with their students and postdoctoral associates, investigate fundamental scientific questions and pathways to reach significant technological goals that can only be properly explored in a collaborative, multidisciplinary mode. These problems are too large in scope to be addressed by individual faculty members and their students. Collaboration is essential for materials-related science and engineering, even for individual investigators, because such research requires very sophisticated equipment. CMSE provides a mechanism for the purchase and supervision of such equipment in its SEFs. The equipment is made available to the members of the IRGs, individual MIT investigators, and researchers from other university, industrial, government, and nonprofit laboratories.

CMSE also provides seed and initiative funds. While preference is given to young faculty, CMSE uses seed and initiative funds to support research that has the potential of redefining the direction of an existing IRG or leading to the creation of a completely new IRG. Seed funding provides CMSE with the flexibility necessary to initiate high-risk research.

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Administration, Management, and Research

The director of CMSE reports to the vice president and dean for research, who reports jointly to the provost and the chancellor, the chief academic officers of MIT. There is an external advisory committee as well as internal committees, the most important of which is the Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) that advises the director about major decisions. The IAC is composed of the IRG leaders, and the faculty education and shared experimental facilities leaders. The center is administered and staffed by an assistant director/administrative officer, a SEF technical manager, a senior program administrator, a financial administrator, a facilities manager, an administrative staff assistant and an administrative assistant.

During this past year, we experienced two personnel changes. The assistant director, Gayle Wolf, left CMSE in August 2002 and Jennifer Crockett assumed the assistant director position in October. We also had a change in the financial administrator position.

In July 2002, CMSE was awarded a $22.2 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program. This grant covers the funding period from September 1, 2002 through August 31, 2006 and will allow us to maintain our status as one of the largest of the 28 MRSEC centers nationwide. In the fall of 2005 we will host a site visit from NSF and have the opportunity to apply for additional funding during the last two years of the award period. This past spring we submitted a noncompeting continuation proposal that described our activities during the first six months of funding, as well as a final report on the previous MRSEC grant.

Interdisciplinary Research Groups

IRG-I: Microphotonic Materials and Structures

Microphotonic materials are rapidly emerging as one of the most promising new platforms for future optical devices and device components. Such materials allow an unprecedented level of control over the confinement and propagation of light, at dimensions that enabled the design and eventual integration of a large number and variety of optical micro devices on a single chip. The objective of this IRG is to explore materials issues and fundamental properties of photonic crystals; to discover physical phenomena associated with photon states that have never been possible before; and to exploit this knowledge with ultimate aim the design, fabrication, and characterization of novel devices and components.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: H. A. Haus, E. P. Ippen, L. A. Kolodziejski, and H. I. Smith (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science); L. C. Kimerling and Y. Fink (Materials Science and Engineering); K. A. Nelson (Chemistry); and J. D. Joannopoulos (Physics).

IRG-II: Nanostructured Polymer Assemblies

Polymers and polymer nanocomposites with functional electronic, optical and bio-interface properties are becoming increasing more important in many new technologies that exploit nanoscale related properties and effects. This IRG seeks to gain a fundamental understanding of the factors that control the way these oftentimes complex, functionally active polymer systems organize at the molecular and nanoscale levels and to use this knowledge to control and significantly enhance the performance of electronic, magnetic, biosensor and optical devices based on these materials.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: R. E. Cohen (Chemical Engineering); M. Bawendi (Chemistry); and P. T. Hammond, A. M. Mayes, C. A. Ross, M. F. Rubner, and E. L. Thomas (Materials Science and Engineering).

IRG-III: Electronic Transport in Mesoscopic Magnetic and Semiconductor Structures

Modern electronics has provided the foundation for the scientific and technological advances of the last few decades but will soon face serious obstacles that may limit further miniaturization and development. Nanoscale elements, with properties dominated by quantum mechanics, are expected to play an important role in overcoming many of these barriers. The focus of this IRG is to explore charge and spin transport in solid-state electronic structures whose building blocks are in the nanometer size regime, so as to understand the fundamental physical principles governing transport through and between these potentially important building blocks of future electronic devices.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: R. C. Ashoori, M. A. Kastner, L. S. Levitov, and X.-G. Wen (Physics); M. G. Bawendi (Chemistry); and R. J. Ram (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science).

IRG-IV: Science and Engineering of Solid State Portable Power Structures

The need for efficient portable power is extremely important in today's society and is becoming critically important to many new technologies that will impact consumer electronics and communication, health monitoring, entertainment, environmental oversight, and national security. This IRG seeks to develop the basic science and engineering of materials for solid-state electrochemical power sources, and to use this fundamental knowledge to design devices with energy and power delivery capabilities far superior to those of anything available today. This group gained IRG status as of September 1, 2003.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: G. Ceder, E. A. Fitzgerald, A. M. Mayes, D. S. Sadoway, and R. L. Smith (Materials Science and Engineeirng); and M. Z. Bazant (Mathematics).

IRG-V: Quantum Magnetism, Correlated Electrons and Superconductivity in Transition Metal Oxides

Materials with strongly correlated electron systems exhibit properties such as high temperature superconductivity, metal-to-insulator transitions and ferromagnetism, which are sensitive to carrier doping, temperature and magnetic fields. A fundamental understanding of these complicated materials does not exist and remains one of the great, unsolved problems in modern materials science. The objective of this IRG is to develop a deeper, more insightful awareness of the origins of the novel behavior of strongly correlated electron systems, thereby establishing the foundation for future technological development.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: E. W. Hudson, M. A. Kastner,

P. A. Lee, and Y.S. Lee (Physics); D. G. Nocera (Chemistry); and F. C. Chou (Research Scientist, CMSE). Due to a reduction in NSF funding this IRG will be phased out by August 31, 2003.

There were a number of changes involving the IRGs during the past year. The group lead by Professor Mary Boyce, "Microstructure and Mechanical Performance of Polymer Materials," was phased out and the Lithium Battery initiative was promoted to IRG status. Two of our previous seeds, Professors Yoel Fink and Keith Nelson, joined IRG-I. Professors Eric Hudson and Young Lee, both junior faculty, joined IRG-V and former seed Professor Rajeev Ram also joined as a full member.

CMSE held a seed competition in early 2003 and selected five junior faculty members to receive two years of funding. As noted above, our previous initiative on lithium batteries was elevated to IRG status and previous seeds moved into existing IRGs, joined to form a new initiative, or were phased out. The following seeds and initiative received funding during 2002-2003:

Initiative Project: Chemically Responsive Organic Optoelectronics

The objective of this new initiative is to design reproducible, high performance organic-based transistors and sensors capable of amplified responses to chemical targets. To accomplish this objective, the group is developing new methods for the deposition of novel active and passive (protective coatings) molecules and polymers. Theoretical descriptions and sophisticated optical and electrical experiments are being used to analyze transport of charge and excitons and for design of optimized new polymers and molecules. Chemical specificity in the sensory responses will be explored by designing materials with specific electronic structures, nanoscopic superstructure, and integration receptors. Particular emphasis is placed on receptors of biological origin, as a result of their exquisite selectivity.

Participating faculty and departmental affiliations: V. Bulovic (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science); K. F. Jensen (Chemical Engineering); and R. J. Silbey and T. M. Swager (Chemistry).

Seed Projects

Collaboration with Industry and Other Sectors

CMSE works closely and effectively with MIT programs and centers designed to connect MIT research to industry, such as the Materials Processing Center (MPC) and MIT's Industrial Liaison Program (ILP). These organizations combined have more than 225 member companies. The MPC, in collaboration with the ILP, will frequently invite members from industry to come to MIT to review recent developments by CMSE researchers. This is done on an individual company basis or in the form of workshops and colloquia that are attended by representatives from many different companies.

Our faculty have ongoing industrial collaborations and interactions with many industrial researchers, including collaborations with: AeroVironment, Analog Devices, Applied Materials, Bell Labs, Bluefin Robotics, CibaVision, Clarendon Photonics, Coatue Corporation, Draper Labs, Dupont, Ford Corporation, IBM, Intel Corporation, Intronics, Inc., JMAR Technologies, JSR Micro, Lord Foundation & Corporation, Lucent Technologies, LumiLEDs, Mars Corporation, National Semiconductors, Novellus Systems, NTT, Pall Corporation, Pirelli, Polaroid, Quantum Dot Corporation, Raytheon, Rockwell, Rolltronics, Shin Ertsu Handotai, Talking Lights, Tokyo Electron, Universal Display Company, U.S. Genomics, Valence Technologies, and Walsin Lihwa Corporation.

This year a seventh company, Lumarray LLC, was added to the list of small companies that have emerged from or are based in part on CMSE research (other companies include Clarendon Photonics, Little Optics, Cumulus Photonics, Omniguide Communications, American Superconductor, and Quantum Dot Corporation). Since September 2002 alone,9 patents have been issued and 39 patent applications have been filed, based on MRSEC-supported work. In addition, 9 licenses based on earlier patents have been issued to companies during the same time-period.

The SEFs are a critical feature of CMSE's collaborations with non-MIT personnel. The facilities are made available to any researcher from a nonprofit institution and to industrial researchers when equivalent facilities are not available commercially. Several of the IRGs participate in direct research collaboration with industry and other sectors. This is important for exchange of knowledge and the education of graduate students, for it provides them with direct experience of industrial research. CMSE currently maintains the following SEFs: Electron Microscopy, Analytical Crystal Growth, X-ray Scattering, and Neutron Scattering.

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Education, Human Resources, Outreach, and Affirmative Action

The education, human resources, and outreach effort of the center continued to expand during the past year. CMSE offers a range of programs for students from pre-college to the graduate level, as well as to middle and high school science teachers. This portfolio of programs is managed by a full-time education officer, who works closely with a faculty education program leader (S. Leeb), the center director and MRSEC faculty to create and maintain outreach activities. We regularly review our educational activities to insure their effectiveness. An educational committee, comprised of personnel from outside of the MRSEC program who are actively involved in educational outreach at MIT, consults on the direction of CMSE's educational programs and coordinates the center's programs with other outreach efforts on campus. Besides involvement in the formal education and outreach activities outlined below, our MRSEC-supported faculty and graduate students frequently engage in various outreach activities with local schools, religious and minority groups, and professional organizations. A recent survey, for example, revealed that over the past academic year, MRSEC-supported faculty worked with ten different outside organizations on various educational outreach activities, with contributions totaling approximately 150 hours.

Precollege Education

Science and Engineering Program for Middle School Students

CMSE continues to operate a science and engineering program that targets seventh- and eighth-grade students who attend two nearby Cambridge public schools. The objectives of the program are to familiarize the students with the field of materials science and engineering, demonstrate that science and engineering are fun and interesting, introduce students to a college environment, and expose them to some of the exciting resources at MIT. The program consists of a full summer week of hands-on and inquiry-based activities in science and engineering for each school.

Participants in the 2002 program included a total of 22 students from the Morse and Peabody Elementary Schools. Of these, 10 were girls and 12 were boys. Four of the students were from underrepresented minority groups. The science teachers from the two schools attended with their students. As the teachers know their students personally, they were responsible, with the assistance of other school staff, for selecting the participants. Program activities were designed and presented by an MIT faculty member, 6 staff members, and 7 undergraduates.

Activity periods are typically 90 minutes long, and include a wide range of topics. The 2002 program involved glassblowing, metal casting, polymer chemistry demonstrations, building an electric circuit that simulates a traffic light, building a simple motor, computer design and programming of mini-robots, and a design contest. The program concluded with this "shoot-the-hoop" competition, which was attended by the families of the program participants. The activities offered are continually evaluated and new projects are developed. The faculty and staff who lead activities vary from year to year.

CMSE has developed collaborative relationships with the Edgerton Center, the MIT Museum, and the Physics, EECS, DMSE, and Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments, which contribute to the development and implementation of projects used in the middle school program. A particularly strong collaboration with the Edgerton Center has produced a number of activities used by both centers in their outreach programs.

Materials Research Experience for Teachers

Over the past four years, the center has grown a very successful Materials Research Experience for Teachers (MRET) program. The objectives of the program are to provide science teachers with an opportunity to actively participate in cutting-edge materials research, to better familiarize the teachers with the field of materials science and engineering, and to develop classroom materials that exploit the connections between current CMSE research and science classroom curricula.

High school and middle school teachers spend seven weeks one summer performing research with CMSE faculty and students, with the option of returning the following summer to develop classroom material based on their research experience. The total number of participants has expanded to ten per year, about half in their initial year and half in their second. Applicants to the program are solicited from alumni of the MIT Science and Engineering Program for Teachers, local school departments, colleagues of former participants, and members of Massachusetts and Rhode Island science teacher organizations. They provide information on their teaching experience, subjects taught, and research interests. Once on campus, the teachers work with Professor Rubner and Leeb to select appropriate research projects.

A special feature of the MRET program during the first summer is an introduction to the center's Shared Experimental Facilities. Participants spend one morning a week in each of the facilities learning about the operation, capabilities, and applications of the state-of-the-art equipment. A second feature, which was added over the past two years, is the deliberate focus on creating lesson plans, lab kits, and other classroom tools. A further objective of the program is to share these materials with other educators to broaden the impact beyond direct MRET participants. For instance, two former MRET participants have written a paper that will be published in the Journal of Chemical Education describing the high school chemistry module they developed. Another teacher spent last summer designing and building viscometers with the help of MIT students. This summer she is back in the lab creating a teaching guide to be loaned out with the viscometers to other teachers. An important component of the program is the continuing relationships formed between the teachers and CMSE. While on campus, teachers have identified opportunities for their students at MIT and have invited CMSE faculty and students to make presentations in their classes and help with science fairs.

During the summer of 2002, six new teachers participated in the MRET program. They included Allyson Bachta, a high school biology teacher in Rockport, MA; Kristy Beauvais, a high school physics teacher in Concord, MA; Kathy Marsh, a middle school science teacher in Acton, MA; Steve Rhule, a high school physics teacher in Milford, PA; Laurie Spry, a high school science and biology teacher in Providence, RI; and Darren T. Wells, a middle school science teacher in Boston. Four former participants (Michael Doherty, Bill McDonald, Rebekah Ravgiala, and Sean Müller) returned during the summer of 2002 to develop classroom material.


In June, CMSE presented a one-day symposium for science teachers featuring MRSEC research. This was done in collaboration with MIT's Council on Primary and Secondary Education and comprised one full day of the annual meeting of the Network of Educators in Science and Technology (NEST). The day's agenda consisted of presentations by MRSEC faculty, including discussions of how the reported cutting-edge research might be incorporated into K–12 classroom teaching. This was the third year that the center has offered this program, and CMSE Day is now a regular feature of the NEST annual meetings.

Content Institute

A new addition to CMSE's education portfolio is the Content Institute subtitled "Dust Busting by Design." This institute was first offered in July 2002 as a collaborative effort between the Cambridge School Department and the center, with financial support from the Massachusetts Department of Education. The objective was to enrich science teachers' content knowledge in the area of engineering design, which is one of the learning standards in the state science education frameworks. Professor Leeb developed the program in response to a need expressed by Cambridge science teachers. It consisted of a full week on campus, during which the participants learned about the engineering design process by being immersed in it. The group was given the specific design requirements for a dustbuster's motor and spent the first three days building motors they designed themselves. On the fourth day, they tested and evaluated their products, then met with faculty to learn about other materials used in a hand-held vacuum–magnets, batteries and polymers. Finally, the teachers spent a day planning classroom projects to teach their students about the engineering design process.

Twenty middle and high school science teachers from eastern Massachusetts attended the program. This group was joined by 27 high school girls for the lab portion of the institute. The high school students were on campus for the Women's Technology Program (WTP), a four-week residence program to introduce women high school students to the fields of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science through hands-on experiments and team-based projects. The Content Institute was one of the classes in the WTP curriculum.

This program was well received by all participants. Consequently, CMSE intends to make it a permanent component of its outreach portfolio, retitled as the Science Teacher Enrichment Program (STEP). The content will vary from year to year as teachers identify different pertinent topics. During the summer of 2003 the program will be offered, focusing on engineering and building motors again. The WTP participants will also participate in the laboratory portion of the program, as they did last year.

Undergraduate Education


MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) provides an ideal mechanism for formalizing undergraduate involvement in CMSE research, and the Center continues to offer this experience students. During the past year, 19 students participated in the UROP program with support from CMSE. Eleven of them were men, eight were women, and three were members of underrepresented minority groups. Five students took advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of CMSE's research program to work with faculty members outside of their own academic departments. In addition to the students funded by CMSE, eight undergraduates conducted MRSEC research with other support or for academic credit.

Summer Research Internship Program

In collaboration with MIT's Materials Processing Center, CMSE operates a Summer Research Internship (REU) Program. The goal of the program is to offer materials research experiences to undergraduates. It provides students considering graduate study a chance to test their interest by participating in a research team of faculty, research staff, and graduate students. An additional objective is to encourage outstanding students to pursue an advanced degree and career in science or engineering.

The summer internship program attracts approximately 150 applicants a year. The program is open to US citizens and permanent residents who will be juniors or seniors the following fall. Interns are selected on the basis of their academic performance, statement of interest, and faculty references. The 21 participants in the program during the summer of 2002 included six women and fifteen men, one of whom is a minority student. They were paid stipends and worked full-time for ten weeks during the summer. Most of the interns lived in a dormitory on campus.

The program began with a three-day symposium featuring faculty presentations on their research and tours of their labs. Twenty-one faculty participated last summer. After hearing about current research options, the interns met with Prof. Rubner and Dr. George Kenney of the MPC to select appropriate projects for the summer. Weekly meetings were devoted to research discussions and informal seminars with guest speakers on topics such as the graduate school admissions process, research funding, and intellectual property. The program concluded with a poster session that was open to the entire MIT materials community.

Graduate Education

IRGs, initiatives, and seed projects supported by CMSE include research assistantships for graduate students. CMSE provides additional funds to support two full-year and one summer assistantship per year for graduate students who are from underrepresented minority groups. During the past year, the center funded a graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering who worked on IRG research, as well as another in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who performed initiative research. An additional Electrical Engineering and Computer Science student who worked on IRG research received summer support from CMSE to bridge his academic year funding. By providing research assistantships specifically earmarked for minority students, CMSE seeks to increase minority student participation in MRSEC research programs. Because the support for a minority student is supplemental to a faculty member's existing CMSE research funds, CMSE provides additional incentive for its faculty to seek minority students as research assistants.

The center's SEFs play a special role in the training of graduate and undergraduate students. CMSE investigators use these facilities to carry out MRSEC research, and often this requires skilled use of state-of-the-art equipment by graduate and undergraduate student researchers. SEF staff provides training for new users and, in some cases, extensive graduate courses are offered on a particular technique, such as electron microscopy. Educational use of SEFs is an integral part of laboratory subjects in the Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate program. Each SEF offers at least one mini-course during IAP to train students to operate the equipment and apply the latest techniques to their research problems. The SEF staff taught ten such courses during January of 2003.


CMSE continues its colloquium series focusing on MRSEC research. The objectives of the colloquium series are to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of CMSE's research; to provide an opportunity for faculty, research staff, and students from different disciplines to meet on a regular basis to discuss their approaches to materials problems; and to inform the greater MIT community about materials research. A special colloquium on the center's educational outreach programs in January 2003 took the form of a workshop on the development of hands-on classroom projects to teach materials science and engineering.

Michael F. Rubner
TDK Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

More information about the Center for Materials Science and Engineering can be found on the web at


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