All matter is potentially ‘a material’. Whether we decide to call something a “material” depends on whether its chemical or physical properties (optical, electrical, magnetic, …) give the substance some unique function. Often the properties may depend on how a particular substance is integrated into a larger chemical or physical system.
“Materials Chemistry” can be defined as the branch of chemistry aimed at the preparation, characterization, and understanding of substances/systems that have some specific useful function (or potentially useful function). It involves 4 primary components: preparation/synthesis (“How are materials made?”), structure (“How are they put together”), characterization (“How do they behave?”) and applications (“What are they good for?”). It integrates elements from all four classical areas of chemistry, but puts an intellectual focus on the fundamental scientific issues that are unique to “materials”. Materials Chemistry largely involves the study of chemistry of condensed phases (solids, liquids, polymers) and interfaces between different phases. Because many of these materials have direct technological applications, materials chemistry has a strong link between basic science and many existing and newly-emerging technologies. While chemistry-focused, the Materials Chemistry Program also serves as a bridge between chemistry and the engineering and life sciences.
The Materials Chemistry Ph.D. Program
Our department has instituted a formal Ph.D. Degree in Materials Chemistry. The Materials Chemistry Ph.D. degree program is aimed at students whose interests span the traditional divisions of chemistry, and who are interested in chemistry of materials. Students with bachelor’s degrees in related fields such as physics, chemical engineering, and materials science and who are interested in moving into chemistry will also find the materials chemistry program quite attractive.
Students in the materials chemistry program are free to do their research with any faculty member in the department as their Ph.D. adviser. It is also possible to arrange for a Ph.D. adviser in another department such as the Dept. of Physics or the Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering.
Materials Chemistry Path Chair
Prof. Song Jin
Graduate Program Coordinator
Graduate Program Director
Our Graduate Programs
Materials chemistry projects ongoing in our department
- Development of new surface-based methods for detecting and manipulating biological molecules (bio-chips, bio-electronics)
- Surface/interface chemistry of microelectronic materials (silicon, diamond, gold)
- DNA computing (using DNA molecules as molecular computers or memory devices)
- Molecular electronics (using individual molecules or ensembles of molecules as wires, switches, diodes, and transistors)
- Synthesis and characterization of electron-delocalized polysilanes (molecular “wires”)
- Structure and dynamics of polymers (experiment and theory)
- Semiconductor-based chemical sensors
- Synthesis and characterization of organic non-linear optical materials
- Quantum dots (nanometer-sized assemblies of atoms)
Other materials-related opportunities on campus
The Materials Chemistry Program is administered by the Department of Chemistry in the College of Letters and Sciences. It is intended for students who want a Ph.D. degree in chemistry, but with an emphasis in “materials”.
In addition to the Materials Chemistry Program, students and faculty with interests in ” materials” can further benefit by association with the Materials Science Program (MSP) on the UW-Madison campus. The MSP is a completely distinct, cross-campus program administered by the College of Engineering for students who want a “materials”-oriented degree with a stronger engineering focus. Although the MSP is administered by the College of Engineering, students in the MSP can perform their Ph.D. research with any of the 55 faculty in 12 departments who are members of the Materials Science Program Advisory Committee. The MSP also has a regular seminar series that brings many renowned scientists to speak on their research.