Author: Jack Darrell

Students of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering recently got their first look at the newly renovated Johns Hopkins Materials Characterization and Processing facility. Helmed by Mitra Taheri, a professor in the MSE, the space is “A Modern Foundry in an old Silver Factory”. Situated in the historic Stieff Silver foundry building, it gathers state-of-the-art tools for testing physical properties, fabrication of new materials, and characterization of inorganic and organic materials. Students of Orla Wilson’s Materials Science Lab, a 2-semester lab sequence required of all MSE juniors, were able to use one of the Scanning Electron Microscopes to examine the fractured surfaces of samples of steel, aluminum, and titanium alloy. The electron microscopes are stored in labs designed to be free of vibration and electromagnetic fields to ensure top performance of the instruments and are temperature-controlled via cooling panels with low air current flow and acoustically dead thanks to sound-proofing panels. “[The students] really appreciated seeing the SEM instrument. The hands-on experience is really important as it helps them understand the capabilities of these tool,” says Wilson.  Veric Tan was one of the students in attendance and echoed Wilson’s sentiments. “This is an arena to work with the instruments we learn about in class and translate it into actual experience, something that will come in useful when we go into industry.” According to Wilson, it is important to introduce undergraduates like her lab class to the facility to reinforce that it is not just for graduate students. “My hope is that some of them will get trained on the instruments and that they will realize the range of applicability of the techniques. Many of them are well entrenched in research groups by now. I hope they will think about how the MCP characterization tools can help in their projects.”


The Materials Characterization and Processing facility has not had its grand opening yet but as students get a feel for some of the high-tech characterization tools that they have access to, the significant role the facility will play in materials research at Johns Hopkins and in the larger community is evident. For Wilson and her students, the excitement was palpable. “I think it was very cool and rewarding to see how impressed they all were with the facility,” she says. As Mitra Taheri sums it up, “We are so lucky to be able to have an inspiring facility to show students all over the city and region what they can do as scientists and engineers, and that they have a home for their ideas. The MCP is proud to open its doors to any and all students interested in following their dreams in STEM. It was programs like this that brought me to science myself and it’s so rewarding to show them what an exciting time it is to be a materials scientist. They can change the world!”