Materials Science

Academic Year 2023 – 2024

General Information

70 Prospect Ave., Bowen Hall

Program Offerings:

  • Joint Degree

Director of Graduate Studies:

Graduate Program Administrator:


The Princeton Materials Institute (PMI) strives to give students a deep understanding of fundamental science and a great appreciation for technology development through our courses and research opportunities. Both undergraduate and graduate students alike are well-prepared for a wide variety of future career opportunities.

Students must apply to and be admitted to a specific academic department (not the Princeton Materials Institute). They must fulfill all departmental and joint degree requirements, including a doctoral thesis related to materials. They may apply to the program at any time after matriculating in their home department but are encouraged to do so in their first year; those wishing to pursue the joint degree should speak to their graduate administrator.

Program Offerings

Program Offering: Joint Degree


The plan of study for students pursuing the joint degree is coordinated with input from their graduate administrator.  All students must take a minimum of three courses approved by the director of the PMI joint degree program.

Please see the PMI website for a complete list of courses that fulfill the materials science course requirements.

Dissertation and FPO

The dissertation must have a clear materials focus and be approved by the director of the PMI joint degree program.  A member of the dissertation committee (either reader or examiner) must also be a faculty affiliate of PMI.


  • Director

    • Alejandro W. Rodriguez
  • Executive Committee

    • Craig B. Arnold, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng
    • Robert H. Austin, Physics
    • Andrew B. Bocarsly, Chemistry
    • Sujit S. Datta, Chemical and Biological Eng
    • Jie Deng, Geosciences
    • Andrej Kosmrlj, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng
    • Glaucio H. Paulino, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Alejandro W. Rodriguez, Electrical & Comp Engineering
    • Leslie M. Schoop, Chemistry
    • Saien Xie, Electrical & Comp Engineering
  • Sits with Committee

    • Kai A. Filsinger
    • Nan Yao

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Permanent Courses

Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.

CBE 503 - Advanced Thermodynamics (also MSE 521)

A systematic treatment of chemical thermodynamics from an advanced point of view. It explores the equilibrium properties of chemical systems under a wide range of conditions and applications to problems of a chemical engineering nature, with an emphasis on multicomponent mixtures and reactive systems.

CBE 526 - Surface Science: Processes and Probes (also CHM 527/MSE 526)

An introduction to processes at surfaces and interfaces. Experimental methods of surface science. Electron spectroscopy, ion scattering, and scanning probe microscopy. Atomic structure of surfaces and adsorbed layers. Thermodynamics of surface processes. Adsorption and molecular dynamics of gas-surface reactions. Kinetics of adsorption, desorption, diffusion, and reactions. Liquid interfaces. Heterogeneous catalysts. Etching. Film growth and epitaxy. Applications to energy and environmental science and technology.

CBE 541 - Polymer Synthesis (also MSE 534)

Fundamentals and practice of polymer synthesis, both at the laboratory and industrial scales. Mechanism, kinetics, and range of application of important polymerization methods: condensation, free-radical, anionic, cationic, coordination; polymerization thermodynamics; chemical reactions on polymers; selected industrial processes (e.g., polyesterification, emulsion polymerization, high- and low-pressure routes to polyethylene).

CBE 544 - Solid-State Properties of Polymers (also MSE 522)

Amorphous polymers, including modulus-temperature behavior, mechanical and dielectric measurements, the glass transition, and yielding and fracture in glassy polymers; semicrystalline polymers, including crystal structure by X-ray diffraction; rheo-optical techniques and birefringence, dichroism, and fluorescence; small-angle scattering techniques, including light, X-ray, and neutron; and other multiphase and multicomponent polymers, including block and segmented copolymers, blends, ionomers, and interpenetrating networks.

CEE 530 - Continuum Mechanics and Thermodynamics (also MAE 560/MSE 530)

The course covers the fundamentals of the mechanics and thermodynamics of continua. It reviews concepts of tensor analysis on manifolds and tensor calculus. It then proceeds by developing the fundamental concepts of the kinematics of a deforming continuum. The notion of stress is then introduced and measures of stresses are discussed. Conservation of mass, balance of momentum and moment of momentum, conservation of energy in thermodynamic are discussed. Constitutive theories and the restriction of the second law are presented. The Euler-Lagrange equations are re-connected with balance laws.

CEE 545 - Origami Engineering (also MAE 556/MSE 535)

This class acquaints the student with the state-of-art concepts and algorithms to design and analyze origami systems (assemblies, structures, tessellations, etc). Students learn how to understand, create and transform geometries by folding and unfolding concepts, and thus apply origami concepts to solve engineering and societal problems. In addition, using origami as a tool, we outreach to some fundamental concepts in differential geometry.

CHM 503 - Introduction to Statistical Mechanics (also CBE 524/MSE 514)

Statistical mechanics provides the basis for understanding the equilibrium and nonequilibrium properties of matter in terms of the microscopic details of molecular interactions and structure. The course aims to provide students with working knowledge of the fundamentals and applications of statistical mechanics.

CHM 522 - Advanced Inorganic Chemistry (also MSE 592)

Advanced topics in inorganic chemistry, including solid-state and bioinorganic chemistry, band theory, and reaction mechanisms.

ECE 541 - Quantum Material Spectroscopy (also MSE 554)

This course introduces students to state-of-the-art techniques in spectroscopy and imaging of solid-state quantum materials, including material systems for quantum information processing, topological and 2D materials, and strongly correlated systems. Lectures focus on both theoretical and practical understanding of the primary materials spectroscopy tools, complemented by a literature survey of current topics. Particular emphasis is placed on novel techniques such as nanoscale quantum sensing, low dimensional systems, spectroscopy of nanostructures, and understanding sources of decoherence in quantum information processing platforms.

ECE 547B - Selected Topics in Solid-State Electronics (also MSE 557)

One or more advanced topics in solid-state electronics. Content may vary from year to year. Recent topics have included electronic properties of doped semiconductors, physics and technology of nanastructures, and organic materials for optical and electronic device application.

ECE 549 - Micro-Nanofabrication and Thin-Film Processing (also MSE 549)

This course investigates the technology and underlying science of micro-and nano-fabrication, which are the methods used to build billions of electronic and optoelectronic devices on a chip, as well as general small sensors and actuators generally referred to as micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). The general approach involves deposition, modification, and patterning of layers less than one-micrometer thick, hence the generic term "thin-film" processing. Topics covered: film deposition and growth via physical and chemical vapor deposition, photolithography, pattern transfer, plasma-processing, ion-implantation, and vacuum science.

ECE 554 - Nonlinear Optics (also MSE 553)

An introduction to nonlinear optics, second-harmonic generation, parametric amplification and oscillation, electrooptic effects, third-order nonlinearities, phase-conjugate optics, photorefractive materials, and solitons.

ECE 557 - Solar Cells: Physics, Materials, and Technology (also ENE 557/MSE 558)

Photovoltaic materials and devices are discussed. Topics covered: solar flux distribution & spectra, photovoltaic parameters, loss mechanisms, Shockley-Queisser detailed balance approach, stability, light management, module design & various solar cell technologies, drawing distinctions between heterojunction & homojunction devices including crystalline Si and III-V, & thin film cells such as CIGS, CdTe, dye sensitized, & organic. In-depth treatment of organic solar cells including lab to fabricate & analyze an organic solar cell. We present methods to go beyond classical limits, such as intermediate band solar cells & multijunction devices.

ECE 560 - Fundamentals of Nanophotonics (also MSE 556/PHY 565)

Introduction to theoretical techniques for understanding and modeling nanophotonic systems, emphasizing important algebraic properties of Maxwell's equations. Topics covered include Hermitian eigensystems, photonic crystals, Bloch's theorem, symmetry, band gaps, omnidirectional reflection, localization and mode confinement of guided and leaky modes. Techniques covered include Green's functions, density of states, numerical eigensolvers, finite-difference and boundary-element methods, coupled-mode theory, scattering formalism, and perturbation theory. The course explores application of these techniques to current research problems.

ENE 506 - Synchrotron and Neutron Techniques for Energy Materials (also CBE 566/CEE 506/MAE 536/MSE 586)

Topics include an introduction to radiation generation at synchrotron and neutron facilities, elastic scattering techniques, inelastic scattering techniques, imaging and spectroscopy. Specific techniques include X-ray and neutron diffraction, small-angle scattering, inelastic neutron scattering, reflectometry, tomography, microscopy, fluorescence and infrared imaging, and photoemission spectroscopy. Emphasis is placed on application of the techniques for uncovering the material structure-property relationship, including energy storage devices, sustainable concrete, CO2 storage, magnetic materials, mesostructured materials and nanoparticles.

GEO 501 - Physics and Chemistry of Minerals (also MSE 541)

Concepts of solid-state physics and inorganic chemistry relevant to the study of minerals and materials. The emphasis is on applications to the study of planetary interiors. Topics include crystal chemistry; crystal structure and phase transitions; equations of state, dynamic, and static compression; elasticity; transport properties; lattice dynamics; lattice defects; and solid-state diffusion and creep.

GEO 507 - Topics in Mineralogy and Mineral Physics (also MSE 547)

Selected topics related to structure, properties, and stability of minerals and melts. Topics include mantle mineralogy, applications of synchrotron radiation to the study of earth materials, physics and chemistry of minerals at high pressure and temperature, and advanced concepts in mineral physics.

MAE 521 - Optics and Lasers (also MSE 561)

An introduction to principles of lasers. Topics include a review of propagation theory, interaction of light and matter, Fourier optics, a survey and description of operational characteristics of lasers, light scattering, and nonlinear optics. Some introductory quantum mechanics will be covered to give students an appreciation of the basic tools for the interaction of light with matter and nonlinear optical phenomena.

MAE 550 - Lessons from Biology for Engineering Tiny Devices (also MSE 560)

In this course we present a survey of problems at the interface of biology, physics and engineering to discuss how nature invented many tiny sensors, machines and structures that are important for functions of cells and organisms. Using this knowledge, we comment how to engineer and self-assemble tiny devices with DNA origami, how to design thin structures that can transform into specific shapes in response to external stimulus, how to make structures with tunable surface properties (drag, adhesion, hydrophobicity/hydrophilicity), how to make flexible electronics, how to make metamaterials with unusual properties, etc.

MAE 562 - Fracture Mechanics (also MSE 540)

Fracture involves processes at multiple time and length scales. This course covers the basic topics including energy balance, crack tip fields, toughness, dissipative processes, and subcritical cracking. Fracture processes are then examined as they occur in some modern technologies, such as advanced ceramics, coatings, composites, and integrated circuits. The course also explores fracture at high temperatures and crack nucleation processes.

MAE 564 - Structural Materials (also MSE 564)

Stress/strain behavior of materials; dislocation theory and strengthening mechanisms; yield strength; materials selection. Fundamentals of plasticity, Tresca and Von Mieses yield criteria. Case study on forging: upper and lower bounds. Basic elements of fracture. Fracture mechanics. Mechanisms of fracture. The fracture toughness. Case studies and design. Fatigue mechanisms and life prediction methodologies.

MOL 567 - Electron Microscopy in Structural Biology (Half-Term) (also MSE 542)

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the theory and application of electron microscopy (EM) in biological research. The history for method development, detailed instructions on sample preparation, image acquisition, and data processing are covered. The emphasis of the course is on the use of the single-particle, cryo-EM by biological researchers. Students of other disciplines are welcome. Instruction consists of lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on experience using the electron microscopes in the Imaging and Analysis Center.

MSE 501 - Introduction to Materials (also CBE 514/CEE 561/MAE 561)

Emphasizes the connection between microstructural features of materials (e.g., grain size, boundary regions between grains, defects) and their properties, and how processing conditions control structure. Topics include thermodynamics and phase equilibria, microstructure, diffusion, kinetics of phase transitions, nucleation and crystal growth, phase separation, spinodal decomposition, glass formation, and the glass transition.

MSE 502 - Phase Transformations in Materials

Thermodynamics and kinetics applicable to phase changes and processing in materials. Phase equilibrium, nucleation and growth, phase separation, coarsening, and diffusion in solids.

MSE 503 - Solid State Materials

This course provides the basic tools to understand solid materials and their mechanical as well as physical properties. The first half of the course focuses on the atomic structure of crystalline materials and how to measure those structures using x-ray, neutron and electron diffraction. We discuss defects in crystalline materials and how they impact the materials properties. The second half of the course focuses on physical properties of solids. A short introduction into Band theory builds up our understanding of electron conductivity and magnetism. Finally, we discuss polymers and amorphous solids.

MSE 504 - Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics Simulation in Statistical Physics & Materials Science (also CBE 520/CHM 560/PHY 512)

This course examines methods for simulating matter at the molecular and electronic scale. Molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo and electronic structure methods will be covered with emphasis on hands-on experience in writing and/or exercising simulation codes for atomistic and electronic structure simulation.

MSE 505 - Characterization of Materials

A multidisciplinary course offering a practical introduction to techniques of imaging and compositional analysis of advanced materials. Focus on principles and applications of various characterization methods. Covered topics include AFM, SEM, TEM, EDX/WDX, EELS, Confocal Microscopy, sample preparation and image processing, etc. Hands-on experience is emphasized.

MSE 511 - Selected Topics in 2D Materials

This topical survey course focuses on two-dimensional (2D) materials, such as graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides. Through a combination of lectures and journal club-type discussions of published research papers and review articles, the synthesis, physical, mechanical, and structural properties of these materials are explored. Discussion topics include electronic structure and transport properties, deformation behavior and fracture, defects (e.g., grain boundaries and dislocations), structural transformations, and synthesis of 2D materials.

MSE 512 - Phase Transformations in Materials: Theory and Simulation (also CHM 511)

This special topics course focuses on the theory and simulation of phase transformations in materials. Through a combination of traditional lectures, peer-to-peer instruction and several computational projects, the physics of nucleation, growth and coarsening behavior of both solid-like and liquid-like multicomponent materials are explored. Computational approaches covered in the class include Langevin equations, Monte Carlo, diffuse interface (phase field), and the level set methods.

MSE 515 - Random Heterogeneous Materials (also APC 515/CHM 559)

Foams, composites, porous media, and biological media are all examples of random heterogeneous materials. The relationship between the macroscopic (transport, mechanical, electromagnetic and chemical) properties and microstructure of random media is formulated. Topics include correlation functions; percolation theory; fractal concepts; sphere packings; Monte Carlo techniques; and image analysis; homogenization theory; effective-medium theories; cluster and perturbation expansions; variational bounding techniques; topology optimization methods; and cross-property relations. Biological and cosmological applications will be discussed.

MSE 517 - Structural and Material Optimization (also CEE 517/MAE 571)

This class addresses the practical aspects, theory, implementation and utilization of optimization in conjunction with analysis tools. It aims to acquaint the student with the state-of-the-art optimization techniques and their application to engineering problems. Besides traditional methods, it introduces the modern and powerful topology optimization method together with its application to material and structural systems. In this context, it also introduces rapid prototyping and 3D/4D printing techniques at different scales.

MSE 518 - Fundamentals of Quantum Materials and Their Applications (also CHM 518)

Exploring the intersection of chemistry, physics, and engineering, this course delves into the fundamentals of quantum materials and their pivotal role in advancing technologies, particularly quantum computing. Emphasizing interdisciplinarity, it equips students with the knowledge to tackle future challenges in materials science and engineering. Covering key concepts, techniques, and applications of quantum materials, the course addresses critical questions and topics within this emerging field. Special focus is given to the various synthesis methods, characterization techniques, and potential of these materials in technological innovations.

PHY 506 - Advanced Quantum Mechanics (also MSE 576)

A one-term course in advanced quantum mechanics, following Physics 505. After a brief review of some fundamental topics (e.g., hydrogen atom, perturbation theory, scattering theory) more advanced topics will be covered, including many-body theory, operator theory, coherent states, stability of matter and other Coulomb systems and the theory of the Bose gas.

PHY 536 - Advanced Condensed Matter Physics II (also MSE 577)

Fermi liquids, Luttinger liquids, the quantum Hall effect, superconductivity, quantum magnetism, Kondo effect and localization.