NSF IGERT Program for the Study of Multiscale Phenomena in Soft Materials

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City College of New York (CCNY), the Engineering and Science Flagship of the City University of New York, and Columbia University invite applicants for doctoral research fellowships for the study of Multiscale Phenomenon in Soft Materials. This unique interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in soft materials is made possible by a National Science Foundation Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) grant.

Soft materials are organic media that organize on supramolecular length scales via weak associative interactions. Examples include thin polymeric films for sensors, organic blends for electronic displays, and natural and artificial tissue, spanning the range from complex fluids to soft solids. Soft materials are intrinsically multi-scale, from molecular to macroscopic, and interfaces play a vital role in properties and performance. A stunning variety of structures and morphologies can emerge, enabling a wide range of new technologies, and all scales impact processing and use.

Engineering and Science faculty members at City College and Columbia University, neighboring institutions in upper Manhattan, are active in teaching and research in the area of soft materials. We have combined our efforts to create a unique interdisciplinary program. Our vision is a PhD program in soft materials that will bring together students and faculty from the engineering and natural sciences, each reinforcing the core of the traditional discipline with an interdisciplinary coursework and research experience that encompasses the scope of today’s problems in soft materials and provides the intellectual foundation for addressing the problems of the future.

The Ph.D. program is built around joint seminars, an industrial internship, collaborative thesis research, and a core of joint course offerings, including two laboratory courses. Each student will be registered in an appropriate academic department at CCNY or Columbia; the CCNY faculty are associated with the Benjamin Levich Institute for Physico-Chemical Hydrodynamics. The IGERT core, half of which will be taught on each campus, will be taken in addition to the core disciplinary requirements in the student’s major department. The soft materials courses are consistent with the Ph.D. elective requirements of the participating academic departments. The central feature that is characteristic of all of the research programs is how multiple time and length scales in soft materials interact to determine the ultimate properties.

The IGERT Program

IGERT Ph.D. Students will register in an engineering or science department at CCNY or Columbia and complete the usual requirements for the Ph.D. in that department. Students will also complete at least six of the following soft materials courses:

  • Introduction to Soft Materials
  • Theory of Soft Materials
  • Molecular Simulation
  • Rheology and Mechanics of Soft Materials
  • Interfacial Chemistry of Soft Materials
  • Interfacial Chemistry Laboratory
  • Polymer Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Soft Materials Characterization Laboratory.
The soft materials courses will satisfy elective requirements for the Ph.D. in all participating departments. IGERT students will also complete a twelve-week summer internship in an industrial laboratory, typically after the first full year in residence. Participating companies include Air Products, ATOFINA, Cabot, Dupont, ExxonMobil, Glaxo, and S. C. Johnson.

The program will include a regular student seminar, alternating between City College and Columbia, and a monthly Soft Materials Seminar Series with distinguished outside speakers. A “buddy” system for new students, pairing them with older graduate students, will facilitate adaptation to the new environment. Each senior graduate student will serve once as a Teaching Assistant for one of the soft materials courses. Annual meetings of the IGERT Advisory Committee will include posters by all students who are engaged in research related to the IGERT program.

Stipends for the first three semesters are determined by the established rate for National Science Foundation fellowships, which is currently $30,000/year. Students also receive tuition and health insurance. IGERT fellowships are restricted to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, but financial support is available for a limited number of other qualified applicants.

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