(2018) Seed: Synthetic soft matter created and inspired by communal behaviors of bacteria

This Seed project engaged underrepresented minority students in STEM through the MRSEC-sponsored summer REU program at UW-Madison. Doris A. Vargas Valentin, an undergraduate student from the University of Puerto Rico—Mayaguez, learned how to use dynamic light scattering and surface and surface tensiometry to characterize the self-assembly of smallmolecule amphiphiles in solution, analyze her experimental results, and present the results of her work in a formal setting during an eight-week stay in Madison. This experience also provided opportunities for Benjamin J. Ortiz, a senior graduate student who is also an underrepresented minority student in the Wisconsin MRSEC, to develop and hone his mentoring skills.

(2018) Seed: Synthetic soft matter created and inspired by communal behaviors of bacteria

Many bacteria have evolved dynamic networks of amphiphilic molecules that form a chemical “language” that they use to communicate and regulate group behaviors. This communication, in turn, governs the synthesis of bacterial biofilms and the production of other chemical goods, including other amphiphilic or redoxactive species, that are unique to large groups or communities of bacteria typically associated with bacterial infections. Researchers at the Wisconsin MRSEC are investigating the self-assembly of this chemical alphabet, and the properties of the nanostructures that form in solution and at interfaces, to design new types of synthetic and responsive soft materials that can respond to or “communicate” selectively with bacterial communities in ways that are distinct from those of existing materials, which are generally designed to interact with or kill individual bacterial cells.

(2018) Electronic structure of thermoelectric Heusler compounds

Heusler compounds are a promising class of thermoelectric materials that can convert waste heat into electricity. Importantly, they are composed of Earth-abundant elements. Their efficiency depends sensitively on electronic structure, however, challenges in preparing high quality single crystalline samples have inhibited such measurements. Now, as part of a SEED project within the Wisconsin MRSEC, scientists have directly measured the electronic structure of high electron mobility (500 cm2/Vs) FeVSb thin films, using angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES). Surprisingly, the valence band of this
material is narrower and the effective mass is higher than predicted by density functional theory calculations. These results call for a re-examination of our understanding of the electronic structure in these materials, and in particular, the potential role of electron-electron correlations.

(2018) Impact of the Wisconsin MRSEC Shared Instrumentation Facilities

The Share Instrumentation Facilities of the Wisconsin MRSEC provide access to and training on over 100 state-of-the-art instruments for fabrication and characterization of m materials. They are widely used by University of Wisconsin students and staff, researchers from other universities, and representatives of companies throughout the region.

(2018) Machine Learning and Materials: Wisconsin MRSEC and the Informatics Skunkworks

The “Informatics Skunkworks” is a group dedicated to engaging undergraduates in realizing the potential of informatics for science and engineering. Skunkworks participants work together in project-based research, learning critical skills in teamwork, presentation, project management, software development, and applied data science, as well as driving data-centric approaches poised to transform the future of science and engineering. Everyone is welcome.

(2018) Wisconsin MRSEC Researchers and Teachers Collaborate to Create Digital Educational Games

The Wisconsin MRSEC has developed research-inspired educational digital games that are each being played over 1900 times/week. Atom Touch teaches students about atom behavior, bonding, and forces. Crystal Cave lets students explore how molecules form repeating patterns to grow into large crystals. During development, local K-12 teachers provided input on how to make the games more engaging for student learning.

(2018) Wisconsin MRSEC teaches Improv for Science Communication for the Materials Research Society

Over 90 people attending the 2017 Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall meeting practiced their science communication skills during two interactive, improv-based workshops presented by the Wisconsin MRSEC. The workshops were based upon the highly successful Improv to Improve Science communication and Teaching course for graduate students that Wisconsin MRSEC members co-developed with a Madison theater company and teach at UW-Madison. The workshops were designed to help MRS members practice communication skills, interact with audiences, and collaboratively develop an elevator pitch for their
own research projects. The workshop can be adapted to various time constraints, workshop objectives, and numbers of attendees and has been presented over a dozen times at UW-Madison.