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Materials Science Experience

High-school students in the 2020 MSE Governor’s School react to meeting MABEline, the college’s synthetic cadaver used in biomedical engineering research and studies.

By Randall Brown.

The MSE department again presented materials science and engineering in the Tennessee Governor’s School for Materials Science and Engineering for 2020, with a course presentation adapted for remote learning necessitated by the year’s pandemic. This year’s program hosted 26 high-school students from across Tennessee.

This annual summer program usually follows portions of the sophomore MSE curriculum with a hearty dose of materials science experimental concepts, followed by data analysis, report writing, and presentations.

“Typically, the students enjoy spending lots of time on the scanning electron microscope, and crafting additional experiments to present at the end of the school poster session,” said Associate Professor of Practice Chris Wetteland, who led Governor’s School efforts for MSE. “This year we had to give the students a laboratory experience virtually.”

The experience succeeded largely due to “herculean” efforts from teaching assistants Matthew Cothrine and Ian Greeley and lab supervisor Gerald Egeland.

“It’s incredibly difficult to put together good online laboratory demonstrations,” said Wetteland. “Gerald, Matthew, and Ian made many dry runs to perform engaging activities. Over the course of the school, they improved tremendously and we got terrific feedback from the students.”

Course adaptations for 2020 included multi-themed collaboration with colleagues such as Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering David Donovan and Assistant Professor Libby Barker from the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering.

“Being online, we wanted to give students a fresh set of faces and to explore materials science across multiple disciplines,” said Wetteland.

Donovan adapted the curriculum from his introductory course on nuclear engineering to discuss research in materials used for fusion energy. Barker showed students the unique material qualities of MABEline, the synthetic cadaver she and other researchers use in biomedical engineering research.

“We had lot of assignments that tested the creativity of the group, and we were not disappointed,” said Wetteland. “I am always blown away by how bright and creative our Governor’s School students are, and this year was no exception. They really rose to the challenge to examine our curriculum and found creative ways to present their work. We shared a lot of laughs over the six weeks.”

The adaptive efforts ultimately offered successful insight into the engineering and STEM world for the participating students, with an added broader exposure thanks to the cross-department faculty participation.

Wetteland looks forward to a future return to an on-campus Governor’s School.

“The goal is for students to come to UT and experience campus and curriculum in person,” he said. “We have had numerous students over the years join MSE and other engineering departments. We hope that, whether online or in person, the students have a great experience and consider joining UT for their undergraduate education.”