Video Lectures - Course Introduction

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Course Introduction


Prof. Donald Sadoway


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Transcript - Course Introduction

OK. 3.53 is an elective. It is a technical elective in the graduate program here in the Department of Material Science and Engineering. That it is to say it is not a core requirement. So that poses some different challenges for the instructor. In a core class you have a captive audience. The students have to take the class because it satisfies some degree of requirement and so they are there whether they like it or not. In 3.53, the students who are taking 3.53 are taking it because they want to learn the material because presumably it is of relevance to their research. So you have the luxury of teaching a group that is self-selected.

They want to learn the material, they are interested in the material, and they are fairly far advanced in their education. The view of the class is to give students a mastery of the elements of electrochemical processes, whether they are passive, as in the case of corrosion, or active as in the case of electrodeposition. And so I spend about the first 20% of the class giving sort of my view of electrochemical processes at the atomistic level so that students understand what the origins are of the various kinetic parameters. And then after that the class pretty much follows a very good textbook in the field written by Allen Bard and Larry Faulkner on Electrochemical Methods.

And these are methods in which electrochemical techniques are used to characterize electrochemical processes. And we go through pretty much chapter and verse studying the various techniques. And, on the platform that I have erected, understanding how these techniques differ from one another and how some of them are superior to others in particular settings. There is no best technique. It's sort of like asking what is the best wine.

It depends on what are you trying to measure, to what degree of accuracy, et cetera. And I build in a lot of time for question and answer. And so it allows, at some level, for me to be running what I consider to be a clinic where students come in with their, you know, I am having trouble in my experiment these days. And, well, let's lay it out in front of the class and let everybody participate. And we will learn from the experience. OK. This is a class that has been around for a long time. I started teaching it in the late `80s. Sometime after I got tenure, my department head said to me, you know, X and Y have been alternating the teaching of electrochemistry. It is time you took this over. And I said, great, well, I will be sure to go talk to them and, you know, get their take on it.

He said no, no, no, no, I don't want you talking to them. He said I want you to start with a clean sheet of paper, and I want you to write on that clean sheet of paper what your vision is for a modern electrochemistry subject in a material science department in the last days of the 20th century. OK. So that is what I did. And mapped out what I thought are the key elements that need to go into that class. And mercifully found a really good book that would help me with the middle third of the class as it was laid out at the time. When I launched the class, I found that I was teaching far too much of old style aqueous solution chemistry, there is this Debye-Huckel model of dilute electrolytes and a whole bunch of other things that, you know, ultimately people don't use that much.

But the central part, the techniques, I found that the students really wanted to learn more about the techniques because it cemented their understanding of kinetics and it also made use of the special ability these MIT graduate students have with the mathematics. So I enlarged the second part. And then the last part involves industrial electrochemistry. And I have kept that to varying degrees, depending on the makeup of the class. I don't want to give the students the impression that there is a right answer because sometimes there is plurality of right answers. And I don't want to give the students the impression that there is the right way to solve the problem. There is a plurality of ways, a plurality of approach, so I am putting forward one way to solve the problem leading to one answer.

In many of the cases, especially in the formative stages, it is a simple numerical problem which is basically making sure that they know how to use the formula. In some cases, it is not so much how do you get the right answer. It is that you have to make a decision between several alternatives. And so, within adequate data and other shortcomings, you have to make engineering judgments. And, in some cases, the solution consists of eliminating that which you can verify cannot be the answer. And all of these problem-solving techniques are valuable for engineers so they need to be cultivated. And I guess calling the solutions model solutions or sometimes I use the term solution outlines just starts to nurture that idea that it is not crisp.

There is uncertainty. It is a noisy system. And you need to master the various techniques as opposed to say this is the answer key. 47.2, that's it. No.

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