Materials Science and Engineering Program

Program in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, sharing teaching and research with the faculty of the Henry Krumb School of Mines.

200 S. W. Mudd, MC 4701
Phone: 212-854-4457

Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) focuses on understanding, designing, and producing technology-enabling materials by analyzing the relationships among the synthesis and processing of materials, their properties, and their detailed structure. This includes a wide range of materials such as metals, polymers, ceramics, and semiconductors. Solidstate science and engineering focuses on understanding and modifying the properties of solids from the viewpoint
of the fundamental physics of the atomic and electronic structure.

Undergraduate and graduate programs in materials science and engineering are coordinated through the MSE Program in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. This program promotes the  interdepartmental nature of the discipline and involves the Departments of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, and Earth and Environmental Engineering (EEE) in the Henry Krumb School of Mines (HKSM) with advisory input from the Departments of Chemistry and Physics.

Students interested in materials science and engineering enroll in the materials science and engineering program in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Those interested in the solid-state science and engineering specialty enroll in the doctoral program within Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics or Electrical Engineering.

The faculty in the interdepartmental committee constitute but a small fraction of those participating in this program, who include Professors Bailey, Barmak, Billinge, Chan, Herman, Im, Marianetti, Noyan, and Pinczuk from Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics; Brus, Durning, Flynn, Koberstein, O’Shaughnessy, and Turro from Chemical Engineering; Duby, Somasundaran, and Themelis from EEE; Heinz, Osgood, and Wang from Electrical Engineering and Wong from Mechanical Engineering.

Materials science and engineering uses optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopy and diffraction techniques to reveal details of structure, ranging from the atomic to the macroscopic scale—details essential to understanding properties such as mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, and technical magnetism. These studies also give insight into problems of the deterioration of materials in service, enabling designers to prolong the useful life of their products. Materials science and engineering also focus on new ways to synthesize and process materials, from bulk samples to ultrathin films to epitaxial heterostructures to nanocrystals. This involves techniques such as UHV sputtering; molecular beam epitaxy; plasma etching; laser ablation, chemistry, and recrystallization; and other nonequilibrium processes. The widespread use of new materials and the new uses of existing materials in electronics, communications, and computers have intensified the demand for a systematic approach to the problem of relating properties to structure and necessitates a multidisciplinary approach.

Solid-state science and engineering uses techniques such as transport measurements, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, inelastic light scattering, luminescence, and nonlinear optics to understand electrical, optical, and magnetic properties on a quantum mechanical level. Such methods are used to investigate exciting new types of structures, such as two-dimensional electron gases in semiconductor heterostructures, superconductors, and semiconductor surfaces and nanocrystals.

Current Research Activities

Current research activities in the materials science and engineering program at Columbia focus on thin films and electronic materials that enable significant advances in information technologies. Specific topics under investigation include interfaces, stresses, and grain boundaries in thin films; lattice defects and electrical properties of semiconductors; laser processing and ultrarapid solidification of thin films; nucleation in condensed systems; optical and electric properties of wide-band semiconductors; synthesis of nanocrystals, carbon nanotubes, and nanotechnology-related materials; deposition, in-situ characterization, electronic testing, and ultrafast spectroscopy of magnetoelectronic ultrathin films and heterostructures. In addition, there is research in surface and colloid chemistry involving both inorganic and organic materials such as surfactants, polymers, and latexes, with emphasis on materials/environment interactions.

The research activities in solid-state science and engineering are described later in this section.

Laboratory Facilities

Facilities and research opportunities also exist within the interdepartmental Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), and Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), which focus on complex films formed from nanoparticles, molecular electronics, and solar energy conversion, respectively. Modern clean room facilities with optical and e-beam lithography, thin film deposition, and surface analytical probes (STM, SPM, XPS) are available. More specialized equipment exists in individual research groups in solid state engineering and materials science and engineering. The research facilities in solid-state science and engineering are listed in the sections for each host department. Facilities, and research opportunities, also exist within the interdepartmental clean room, shared materials characterization laboratories, and electron microscopy facility.