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Moving Forward with Materials Research » GradSchoolShopper.com

Moving Forward with Materials Research

CEM Graduate Student Jennifer Soliz work in the lab. Credit: Center for Emergent Materials at The Ohio State University

CEM Graduate Student Jennifer Soliz work in the lab. Credit: Center for Emergent Materials at The Ohio State University

If you’re interested in materials research, which can range from improving medicine to advancing computer technology, consider one of the thirty Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers at universities across the country. The interdisciplinary focus of the centers means you interact with students across multiple fields including physics, chemistry and engineering.

Transporting information through diamond wires, developing synthetic cartilage for suffering patients and inserting synthetic motors into human cells are just some examples of the exciting research coming out of Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) across the country.

Whether you’re interested in physics, chemistry, engineering or a combination of the three, MRSECs are one option where you can get your feet wet in materials research as a graduate student. The National Science Foundation funds the nation’s thirty MRSECs that contribute important advances to society through multi- and interdisciplinary scientific materials research.

One such advance is the unique properties of diamond that Ohio State University physicist Chris Hammel and his colleagues recently discovered. Their findings mean that future computer circuits could haul information faster and more efficiently through affordable, diamond-laced wires.

A MRSEC, the Center for Emergent Materials (CEM) at OSU conducts research across multiple university departments including physics and engineering. As a result, graduate students interact with other students and faculty that they otherwise may not meet. This is one of the important qualities of such a center, Hammel said.

“It’s a powerful force not only for doing new science but it also creates communities that are otherwise very hard to form,” said Hammel who directs the CEM at OSU.

For a graduate student of Hammel’s, Nicolas Scozzaro, the CEMs interdisciplinary research groups are one of the aspects he most enjoys. Scozzaro is a co-author on the paper describing the team’s work with diamonds, which was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

“I like how these interdisciplinary groups bring together a lot of different specialties,” said Scozzaro who is a third-year physics graduate student. “I feel like that’s really efficient in a sense and allows for a lot of new ideas to come about.”

CEM Graduate Student Andrew Berger works in the OSU Center for Emergent Materials lab. Credit: Center for Emergent Materials at The Ohio State University

CEM Graduate Student Andrew Berger works in the OSU Center for Emergent Materials lab. Credit: Center for Emergent Materials at The Ohio State University

When shopping for a graduate program, Hammel recommends speaking with the students and faculty before making a decision. Moreover, a variety of research options never hurt, which is why MERCs could be a good fit for students interested in materials research that has industrial applications.

“If you’re not sure what you want, then you want to go to a place that has a diversity of options so when you get there you have a menu,” Hammel said.

Visit “6 Tips for a Successful Graduate School Transition” on student.gradschoolshopper.com for more advice on what to look for to find the graduate program that’s right for you.

“I found the AIP GradSchoolShopper website to be an invaluable resource when I was applying to grad school,” Scozzaro said.

By Jessica Orwig, AIP Physics Resources Program Associate

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Get a summer job, or summer classes, in the school you are going to study in. You don’t have to commit to anything long-term, but you can start in the summertime before your program starts. This way, you can also secure your accommodations and avoid competing with other students for housing during the fall. — Gary White, director of the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, Podcast Episode #3

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