Introduction to Materials Science and Nanotechnology (Online)

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday-Friday, 9:10 a.m.–11:00 a.m. and 1:10–3:00 p.m.
Luis Avila and staff

One year of algebra, one year of chemistry, and one year of either biology or physics.

“I’ve learned a lot about material science and how college classes actually work, which was really nice. This course was truly life changing and an overall great experience.” – Fatema M. | Hicksville, New York  

Course Description 

The progress of civilization is inscribed in the history of humans and their materials—the Stone Age, the Iron Age, and today’s Age of Plastics. Materials determine the technologies that provide protection, communication, information, construction, mechanization, agriculture, and health. Knowing why glass shatters, wood splinters, steel is tough, rubber stretches and recovers, nylon can be drawn, and tin flattens, makes possible the selection of materials for enormously different applications.

This course is designed for students who want to deepen their understanding of the relationship between the nano- and microstructure of a material and its bulk physical and chemical properties.

The daily program follows a seminar format, beginning with a morning online discussion about specific materials, including animations and thematic videos, and culminating with afternoon online research presentations by faculty from Columbia University, sister academic institutions, industry, and National Laboratories.

Through individual and collaborative audio-visual assignments and class discussions, students learn to:

  • Differentiate between metals, ceramics, polymers, and composite materials
  • Search academic and professional journals and properly cite scientific work
  • Perform effectively in a group setting by actively participating in discussions
  • Discover the ethical implications of materials science in societal and global decision-making
  • Demonstrate problem-solving and critical thinking skills to evaluate the applications of a given material based on its nano- and microstructure properties

Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions and research seminars, complete a collaborative research project, and present their project in class.


Luis Avila

Luis Avila is a vibrational spectroscopist and a Columbia University Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry. He received the M.Sc. in chemical physics from Babes Bolyai University (Romania) and his Ph.D. in chemistry education from Columbia. His current research interests include vibrational spectroscopy of materials and chemical education. He is a reviewer for the Journal of Chemical Education and the Journal of Science Education and Technology, and he has published papers and monographs on vibrational spectroscopy and authored laboratory manuals on instrumental methods and procedures.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.