Jul 16, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 
Rensselaer Catalog 2023-2024 [Archived Catalog]

Materials Science and Engineering

Department Head: Pawel Keblinski

Undergraduate Advising: Edmund Palermo

Graduate Recruiting & Advising: Ganpati Ramanath

Department Home Page: https://mse.rpi.edu

Progress in modern technology is often limited by the availability of suitable solid materials. The materials engineer must produce materials to meet the demands of the designers of jet engines and rocket boosters, microelectronic devices, optical components, medical prostheses, and many other products.

The principles that govern the processing and structure of materials to produce optimum mechanical and physical properties and performance are embodied in the materials engineering curriculum. The program is designed to produce engineers and scientists whose degrees represent useful specialization coupled with a broad background in all classes of materials.

Undergraduate students wishing to extend their education can undertake specialized study in a range of fields. These include ceramics, polymers, composites, nanostructured materials, high-temperature alloys, high-strength high-modulus materials, biomaterials, electronic materials, surface and molecular kinetics, glass science, and the origin of mechanical and physical properties in many different types of materials. Graduate students, in addition to pursuing classroom courses, conduct research in a variety of areas described below and write their theses based on this research. Extensive laboratories containing modern and sophisticated equipment are available.

For the student who likes to innovate and who wants to apply knowledge to the real problems of a modern technological society, materials science and engineering provides a broad range of exciting opportunities.

Research and Innovation Initiatives

Materials Processing
Current focus of materials processing research efforts all revolve around processing of nanostructures such as polymer nanocomposites for applications in biomedical, solar, LED lighting, electromagnetic shielding, and various other fields of major interest to the U.S. economy. Research efforts were directed at dispersion and distribution of inorganic or metallic nanofillers in polymeric materials. These efforts led to major breakthroughs in understanding the physics behind nanofillers agglomeration and how to prevent agglomeration in order to achieve theoretically predicted benefits of nanostructures. Synthesis, processing and structure-property characterization of carbon nanotubes, graphene, various metallic and inorganic nanoparticles, and their polymeric nanocomposites continue to form the core research activities at the department.

Materials for Microelectronic Systems
This research spans multiple fields including the development of epitaxial semiconductor materials for new electronic applications, exploration of new semiconductor nanostructural architectures for new nanoelectronic device concepts, development of new methods for material characterization and fabrication at the nanoscale, and materials problems associated with the interconnections between integrated circuit elements. Included are the growth of thin films of metals, semiconductors, polymer and ceramic  materials, advances in the patterning and etching processes necessary for the fabrication of multilayer devices, and the application of state-of-the-art ion and electron beam lithography and microscopy methods.

Glasses and Ceramics
Research efforts focus on factors influencing the useful lifetime of glass components and the effect of environments, especially aqueous environments, on glass failure. In addition to the conventional applications such as windows and bottles, glasses are used as optical components such as optical communication fibers. Specifically, variation of the glass surface structure with time and its influence on glass properties are under investigation. Another emphasis is the development of nonoxide glasses, primarily those based on fluorides, as the transmitting medium in optical fibers for communications purposes.

Nanocomposite Materials
Composite materials are made up of at least two distinct materials that when combined yield superior properties compared to the starting materials. Traditional examples of composite materials are carbon fiber reinforced polymers, glass fiber reinforced polymers, metal matrix composites, engineered woods, etc. Nanocomposite materials are those in which one of the components has nanoscale dimensions. For example, carbon nanotubes, organoclay sheets (organically modified clay), silica nanoparticles, graphene (individual graphite layers), etc. When nanoscale materials are combined with, for example, polymers, the resulting material provides improvements and control over multiple properties such as electrical, optical, thermal, thermo-mechanical, mechanical, environmental, etc. Research at Rensselaer spans all types of nanoscale materials and their nanocomposites mainly with polymeric materials. Examples include silica, alumina, titania, zinc oxide, organoclay, graphene, single and multi-walled carbon nanotube filled polymers.

Computational Materials Science  
A number of MSE faculty focus on computational materials science and have expertise ranging from electronic structure calculation via classical molecular dynamics methods and mesoscale-level techniques, to continuum-level analysis and calculations. The main goal of the computational and theoretical research is to provide a framework for understanding the detailed role of individual parameters such as microstructural size, surface structure and chemistry, nature of defects and their distribution in material synthesis, processing and properties. Specific research areas include mass and heat transport, phase diagram and phase change modeling, chemical and thermal processes in energy materials, ceramic and metallic glasses, and opto-electronic property calculations in particular for energy conversion applications.

Nanostructured materials are being widely studied by faculty, postdoctoral, and student researchers in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Rensselaer. For example, polymer nanocomposites containing inorganic nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes are being made that have potential applications that combine novel electrical, optical, or mechanical responses. Rensselaer’s Materials Science and Engineering investigators have put significant research effort into exploring the design of polymer nanocomposites with controlled dispersions of nanoparticle fillers and how these alter the various material properties of the host polymer. Another active area of research is the use of compacted nanopowders as high figure of merit thermoelectric materials. MSE researchers also use elastic strain engineering at nanoscale, to design and tune the electrical and optical properties of low-dimensional perovskite and wurtzite materials.

Biomaterials is the multidisciplinary field at the interface of biology and materials science. Design, processing, and fabrication of synthetic materials that can interact with living organisms enables such technologies as biomedical implants, tissue engineering scaffolds, and drug and gene delivery vehicles. The MSE faculty study structure-property relationships in biological materials, including biominerals (ceramics and glasses), biopolymers, and complex biological composite materials. Elucidation of Nature’s materials design principles, from the molecular level to the nano- and micro-scale, provides new paradigms for the design and fabrication of advanced multifunctional synthetic materials.

Faculty *


Gall, D.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); thin film and nanostructure growth, electronic properties of materials, protective coatings, energy materials, electronic materials, single crystal layer deposition. (Robert W Hunt Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, APS Fellow)

Huang, L.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); computational and experimental techniques, oxide glasses and ceramics with superior properties, nanostructured materials for energy, environment and biology-related applications.  (Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in Engineering).

Hull, R.—Ph.D. (Oxford University); nanoscaled materials, electronic materials, semiconductors, interfaces, crystalline defects, nanofabrication, materials characterization, electron microscopy, and focused ion beams (Henry Burlage Jr. Professor of Engineering; Director of Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems; and Vice President for Research).

Keblinski, P.—Ph.D. (Pennsylvania State University); atomic-level computational modeling of interfacial processes; structure-property correlations; heat flow at nanoscale, polymer nanocomposites (Department Head).

Ramanath, G.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois); thin film electronic materials; interconnects, diffusion barriers, low-k dielectrics; characterization of interfacial reactions, kinetics, and mechanisms of microstructure and phase evolution during deposition and annealing; processing self-organized structures for microelectronics applications. (John Tod Horton Distinguished Professor in Materials Engineering).

Shi, Y.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor); computational material science, molecular motors, nanoporous materials, energetic materials, metallic glasses, and metal-semiconductor interfaces.

Tomozawa, M.—Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania); electrical properties of glasses, X-ray and light scattering, phase separation, mechanical properties of glasses.

Associate Professors

Fohtung, E. - Ph.D ( Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Germany) Coherent X-ray Scattering, electronic structure,fluctuations and dynamics,phase retrieval

Lewis, D.J.—Ph.D. (Lehigh University); solidification and diffusion in multicomponent solids, modeling of phase transformations, understanding long term degradation in fuel cells.

Ozisik, R.—Ph.D. (University of Akron, Ohio); multiscale simulations of polymers and polymer nanocomposites, role of interface and confinement on the properties of nanocomposites, supercritical carbon dioxide assisted processing of polymers and polymer nanocomposites, polymeric foams. 

Palermo, E.—Ph.D. (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor); biomaterials, polymer synthesis, antimicrobial polymers and nanomaterials, antibiofouling materials, biosensors, anticorrosion coatings.

Shi, J.—Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin, Madison); energy conversion, piezoelectricity, water splitting, oxides electronics, photovoltaics, nanotechnology, transition metal oxides, chemical vapor deposition, atomic layer deposition, sputtering, time-resolved photoluminescence, carrier dynamics.

Sundararaman, R.—Ph.D. (Cornell University); computational material science, electronic properties, nanomaterials, solid-liquid interfaces, electrochemistry, plasmonics, photonics, energy conversion and storage applications, computational methods and open-source software.

Ullal, C.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); optical microscopy, nanotechnology, self-assembled polymers, self-assembly mechanics of block copolymer and colloidal nanostructures.

Assistant Professors

Bao, W - Ph.D. (Univ of California Berkeley) quantum simulation, metasurfaces, Photonic based quantum communication, quantum computing, microchip communication technologies.

Professors of Practice

LaGraff, J. - Ph.D. (Univ of Illinois Champaign-Urbana); microelectronic processing, combinatorial chemistry, and advanced coatings for jet engines

Dannemann, K - Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Mechanical Behavior of Materials, Materials in Extreme Environments, Dynamic Behavior of Materials, Experimental Mechanics, Engineering Design

Emeritus Faculty

Chung, C.I.—Ph.D. (Rutgers University); polymer processing, polymer melt theology, relaxation behavior in polymer solids.

Duquette, D.J.—Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); environmental and surface effects on the mechanical behavior of metals, corrosion, stress corrosion fatigue (John Tod Horton Distinguished Professor in Materials Engineering).

Ficalora, P.J.—Ph.D. (Pennsylvania State University); kinetics and thermodynamics of heterogeneous reactions, chemisorption effects on electronic materials.

Hudson, J.B.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); adsorption on solid surfaces, structure and reactivity of solids, physics and chemistry of surfaces, nanocrystal growth.

Messler, R.W., Jr.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); materials in manufacturing, welding.

Murarka, S.P.—Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); Ph.D. (University of Agra); metallization for deep submicron silicon integrated circuits, low temperature and localized processes, thin dielectric films, diffusion and defects (Elaine S. and Jack S. Parker Chair in Engineering).

Siegel, R.W.—Ph.D. (University of Illinois); synthesis, processing, structure, and properties of functional nanostructured materials including metals, ceramics, and composites; biomaterials; atomic-scale defects and diffusion in materials (Robert W. Hunt Professor of Engineering).

Steinbruchel, C.—Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); thin films, electronic materials, plasma processing, ion beam and ultra-high vacuum techniques.

Sternstein, S.S.—Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); high-performance composites; physical properties of polymers; rubber elasticity theory; fracture, yielding, and craze formation in glassy polymers and composites, viscoelastic properties; swelling in filled elastomers (William Weightman Walker Professor of Polymer Engineering).

Wright, R.N.—Sc.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); metal forming and fabrication, mechanical behavior of metals.


Manager of Mechanical Testing and Metallography Laboratories
Adams, C.J.

Administrative Specialist
Matthias, N

Manager of Electron Microscopy Laboratories
Yang, C

Business Administrator
George, J

Administrative Coordinator
Lecuyer, T.

Manager of Materials Analysis Laboratories
Chen, Y

* Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions, including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster section of this catalog, which is current as of the May 2022 Board of Trustees meeting.

Undergraduate Programs

Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics.
  • an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors.
  • an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  • an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.
  • an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.
  • an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  • an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.

Objectives of the Undergraduate Curriculum

While certain objectives of an undergraduate education in engineering are common to all programs, there are subtle but important differences that require some subset of objectives specific to ensuring that all graduates have specialized technical knowledge in their chosen field.

Graduates of the materials engineering baccalaureate program who remain in their field, as graduate students or as professionals, will have within a few years of their graduation:

  • apply their knowledge and broad set of skills, including those arising from their mastery of the basic principles that underlie contemporary materials science and engineering, towards the goal of creating innovative and impactful solutions for societal needs in a broad range of career paths.
  • continue growth into leadership roles that engage teams in complex tasks, develop new paradigms, systems and/or technologies that positively impact society.

The Materials Engineering degree program at Rensselaer is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

Graduate Programs 

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering offers programs leading to the M.S., M.Eng., and Ph.D. degrees.

Master’s Programs

Both the M.S. and M. Eng. degrees require completion of a minimum of 30 credit hours. The M.S. degree requires a written thesis as well as an oral presentation to the scientific community. A 3-credit capstone independent study project is required for the M. Eng. degree.

Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. degree requires completion of 72 credit hours. Students must complete a minimum of 29 coursework credits including three 4-credit MTLE core graduate courses: Advanced Structure and Bonding, Advanced Thermodynamics, and Advanced Kinetics; at least nine(9) additional credits must be from 6000-level MTLE (MSE department) coursework, of which at least three (3) credits must be coursework on materials characterization or computational materials science; and at the remaining additional 3- or 4-credit graduate level (6000-level) courses offered by the School of Engineering and/or the School of Science. The course selections must be approved by the student’s academic adviser and graduate curriculum coordinator prior to the enrollment in the courses.

The student must pass an oral preliminary examination covering the five core subjects, an oral candidacy examination presenting the Ph.D. thesis research proposal with preliminary results, and finally defend the Ph.D. thesis.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this Ph.D. program will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of fundamentals underlying the relationship between the structure, property, and performance of materials.
  • formulate, analyze, investigate and defend a dissertation on a research problem that clearly advances the state of knowledge in the field.
  • demonstrate effective oral communication skills.
  • write a research paper suitable for a peer-review publication. 

Course Descriptions

Courses directly related to the Materials Engineering curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog primarily under the department code MTLE.