A Materials Boom at Tulane

Materials Boom

Tulane University's Physics and Engineering Physics (PEP) Department is undergoing a major expansion in the area of materials science and engineering, a field that is both as old as human civilization and a critical focus area for 21st century technological advancement. The department has a recent history of strength in this area, and the focused growth in faculty, research, educational programs, and infrastructure is designed to make Tulane's program an internationally recognized center of excellence.

In the last three years alone, Tulane has hired five new faculty in the PEP department with expertise in materials science and engineering. At the senior level, Prof. Doug Chrisey, the Jung Chair of Materials Engineering, started in Fall 2012 and is leading this effort. His research focuses on energy materials and biomaterials. He is currently publishing in areas of metallic nanoparticle fabrication, biosensing, bionanotechnology, tissue engineering, stem cell processing, ceramics, and polyamorphism.

Four assistant professors have also been hired in the last three years. Prof. Diyar Talbayev started in 2011 and focuses on optical spectroscopy of complex materials. Prof. Jiang Wei started in 2012, and his laboratory studies electronic nano-devices based on novel materials. Prof. Matthew Escarra started in 2013, and his laboratory develops photonic materials and devices, with a focus on solar energy and light-emitters with improved and novel properties. Prof. Noa Marom also started in 2013, and her research focus is on computational materials science.

This influx of new faculty and expertise is fueling the highly successful, ABET accredited Engineering Physics undergraduate program, which began in 2007. At the graduate level, a new Materials Science and Engineering PhD program is anticipated to launch in the near future. Furthermore, programs are under development that would offer a professional and/or part-time masters level education in materials science and engineering.

The success of this materials program is due in part to a significant investment in new facilities to support these research and educational endeavors. Tulane has established a shared instrumentation facility for the synthesis and study of new materials and related devices at the micro and nano-scale (see photo). This facility features a major cleanroom space equipped with tools for highly controlled material patterning, deposition, removal, and characterization. In addition to this cleanroom facility, each of the new experimental faculty has developed a leading edge laboratory to carry out their scientific programs. Sizable new investments in computational resources at Tulane are also supporting these programs.

This center will not only benefit current and future students, faculty, and researchers at Tulane, but it will also be a major asset for the city and region. While the New Orleans regional economy is growing at a steady pace, there is a tremendous need for skilled workers to fuel this growth, particularly in the high tech and manufacturing sectors. Tulane's Engineering Physics and Materials Science and Engineering programs are well-positioned to provide critical support for this regional revival, ensuring that PEP continues to fulfill Tulane's greater mission of scholarly, educational, and community impact.

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