Summer school provides ‘incredible experience’ for educators learning computational MSE

Summer school provides ‘incredible experience’ for educators learning computational MSE

2017 ICME Summer School participants

For two weeks, June 5-16, 25 university educators became students again – taking notes and absorbing concepts like finite difference methods – at the sixth annual Summer School for Integrated Computational Materials Education (ICMEd) held in U-M’s West Hall. Click here to see photos.

Founded in 2011 by MSE Professor Katsuyo Thornton, Summer School for ICMEd spends 10 days training faculty, postdocs and graduate students who intend to teach computational MSE to undergraduates.

The summer program grew out of Thornton’s efforts to bolster engineering education. Over the past two decades, Thornton explains, curricula have struggled to keep up with the ever-increasing advances in science and engineering technology – technology that can dramatically enhance learning and materials research and innovations. “Computational materials science is a perfect example,” she said. “Computational tools can provide a virtual laboratory that can help students better visualize the material processes and bring them to ‘life.’” For the past 13 years, she has incorporated computational modules in her U-M classes.

In an effort to more broadly disseminate the modules and reach students beyond U-M, Thornton founded the summer program, which, in just six summers, has had remarkable success. Since 2011, the Summer School for ICMEd program has attracted 130 participants from the U.S., Europe and Asia, who have in turn reached an estimated 1,600 students worldwide.

This year’s ICMEd participants, who hailed from universities across the U.S., as well as Egypt, South Korea and India, agree that after their 10 days of intensive learning, they are ready to return to their classrooms as ambassadors of computational MSE.

“I signed up for the summer school mainly because I wanted to broaden my knowledge in the field of computational materials science and also learn the effective techniques for transferring that knowledge to my future students,” said Youness Alvandi-Tabrizi, a Ph.D. candidate from North Carolina State University, who added: “During the course of two weeks, I transferred from someone who had no idea about Density Functional Theory (DFT) to someone who ran a DFT code. As a graduate researcher who uses phase-field methods, I had a chance to discuss a variety of issues with experts in the field and gain a clearer understanding of what phase-field can offer.”

Other participants, like Dina Abouelelia, a graduate student from Cairo University, say they came away with more than just new scientific theories. “I signed up for the summer school to learn something new in my research field but I found that I learned a lot of things in my life, not just education,” Abouelelia said. “I learned new things like software tools, met wonderful people from different countries and saw one of the most beautiful cities in the world.“

“ICMEd was an absolutely incredible experience for me,” summed up Mujan Seif, an undergraduate from the University of Kentucky. “I learned so much, met some wonderful people, and had a great time hanging out in Ann Arbor.”