Graduate Materials Science programs — distance learning

I started taking graduate matsci courses several years ago at the UW via the Edge program, and also took some on campus. I have found it hard to continue though as the UW materials science school doesn’t have a deep schedule, and they have decommitted from the distance learning effort. So I am shopping for other programs.

Columbia’s program — CVN – Columbia Video Network — seems to be among the most complete with a full schedule of courses. And they offer a full MS degree via online. And you can start as a non-matriculated student. Florida has a program as well. And so does USC, tho the courses offered is a smaller slate than Columbia’s.

Distance Learning — graduate engineering

Been tough to keep up with my coursework at UW this year — they just don’t have a deep distance learning curriculum, particularly in materials science, my interest area. Scanning the web for new options:

* Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering — Florida seems to have a prominent program but sigh, the gators.
* Auburn as well
* Purdue
* Texas A&M

Of course if I want to go self-paced and just learn material without worrying about a degree there is always MIT Open Courseware though at a graduate level the materials are often very thin — someones lecture notes.

How History is taught elsewhere

I’ve often wished I could read a sampling of history texts used in high schools worldwide — it would be educational to see how students in different societies are programmed. For instance in the WSJ today, some of the messages that are being pushed in Russia, so different than how we teach history here: A Do-Over for Russian History? – WSJ.com

Another teachers’ guide getting Kremlin support, meanwhile, recasts key elements of Soviet history. Dictator Josef Stalin is described as “the most successful Soviet leader ever,” for building industry and leading the country to victory in World War II. The guide explains his purges and the system of camps for political prisoners as a function of his desire to make the Soviet Union strong.

Mr. Putin himself echoed that view at the meeting with teachers, saying Stalin’s “Great Terror” of 1937 — during which at least 700,000 people were executed — wasn’t as bad as atrocities other nations had perpetrated, such as the U.S. use of the atomic bomb.

What course to take at the U this fall

Trying to figure out what course to take this fall…

* EE graduate seminar on energy — not sure what typical content would be, but could be relevant to investing side of my life
* Power Systems Economics — also could be relevant to investing side
* MatSci 502 — Sol Gel processing — just because i like materials science
* MatSci 510 — Binding and Structure. Also just because I like materials science, but the “rigorous” in the description is a little scary
* MatSci graduate seminar — could be an interesting overview of topics
* Matsci 555 — biomimetics — a very interesting topic area
* Nanotech seminar — another interesting overview
* Bioengineering 599E — biosensors — could be an interesting domain to learn more about

Advice for College Admissions Counselors

Please please please — pretend you are a student and go out and attend a week’s worth of college visits at other institutions. I think you will find that there is a lot of mind numbing repetition across the presentations and tours. You all have study abroad programs, intern programs, food service, blue light security on campus, etc etc etc.

What is far more interesting to hear about is the unique aspects of your institution and the community you are in. And maybe a direct compare/contrast between your institution and your most direct “competitors”. And consider doing something different in your presentation than every other college; one school brought in a professor to talk with the kids, this was memorable; another school gave away ice cream sandwiches at the end of the tour, a simple gesture but the kids loved it.

I’d consider running two different info sessions and tours — one for first time college visitors, and one for people who have seen 2 or more schools already.

I guess what I’m saying is think a little more deeply about your audience and what they are going thru, and tune the presentation to them.

Electron Theory texts

Some books I’ve been reading to help me in my coursework:

* “Quantum Mechanics Demystified”:amazon. High ranking on amazon but really terrible as an introduction. Very little conceptual discussion, just lots of math wanking. Maybe useful as a reference.
* “Nonclassical physics”:amazon by Harris. Fine text. Good mix of concept and math. Very good at explaining relevancy of concepts
* “Electronic properties of materials”:amazon by Hummel. Good, a little stilted — I first guessed it was written in the 40s. Also terse, but some very helpful explanations of lasers, of electrons in crystals, etc.

This quarter's educational adventure

Materials Science 565 — Electron Theory of Materials. Way more quantum theory than I ever knew. Definitely getting my educational butt kicked. First homework question as an example:

bq. You were asked to design a composite material consisting of small Ag metal particles embedded into a dielectric media for laser applications. If the size of metal particles is small, electrons in the metal particles are confined as the potential barrier at the surface of the particles may be regarded as infinite. During the course of investigation, you were able to alter the shape of the metal particles into “cube” or “sphere”. You were then wondering how the shape of the particles influences on the distribution of energy levels and on the wavelength of the light at which the material would lase. You would like to answer the following questions…

So some links on lasers that seem helpful in various ways:

* Encyclopedia of Laser Physics and Technology — this particular article has some simple info on laser efficiency
* Wikipedia laser diode article is useful
* Nice article on wtec.org discussing lightly “density of state” considerations