Group Research Overviews

Learn more about the research of each group and the work they do.


Core strengths in materials synthesis, characterization and computation and materials informatics support the department’s research thrusts. The department’s primary research thrusts are corrosion and electrochemistry; structural materials; electronic, magnetic and optical properties of materials; and soft materials.

  • Agnew Group

    Our research is focused primarily on metals analysis, including magnesium alloy formability, intermetallic behaviors, and aluminum alloy fatigue. Our methods of analysis typically include uses of SEM, TEM, XRD, and Neutron diffraction. Also included in our army of techniques is mechanical testing.

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  • Burns Group

    Our research is primarily directed towards investigating environmental fracture in structural metals, including ultra-high strength steels, 5xxx and 7xxx-series aluminium, and Ni-based superalloys. In particular, the group strives to understand how the environment influences the properties and performance of these structural metals.

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  • Cai Group

    Our lab’s interests lie at the interface of soft matter and biology. We aim to understand and control the interactions between active soft materials, like responsive polymers or biological gels, and living systems, like bacteria or cells and tissues in the human body. We do this by using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches; specific expertise includes polymer physics and chemistry, molecular engineering, macro- and micro-rheology, microscopy and image analysis, microfluidics and 3D printing.

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  • Floro Group

    Our research group employs a range of techniques to synthesize materials, including vapor phase epitaxy and thin film growth, laser processing and rapid solidification, powder processing, and solid-state phase transformations. There is plenty of room at the bottom -- and there is both beauty and mystery there as well.

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  • Geise Group

    Our research group seeks to develop structure/property/processing relationships to guide polymeric materials design for membrane-based liquid separation and energy applications by understanding the influence of nano-and molecular-scale interactions and phenomena on mass transfer and system-level performance.

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  • Ihlefeld Group

    Our group studies the process-structure-property relations in ferroelectric, dielectric, and ion-conducting oxides. The group primarily focuses on thin films prepared by a wide range of methods, including: pulsed laser ablation, sputtering, atomic layer deposition, and chemical solution deposition. We use the linakges between process, structure, and properties to enable materials integration resulting in novel electronic, thermal, or optical functionality and devices.

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  • Kelly Group

    Our present work includes studies of the electrochemical and chemical conditions inside localized corrosion sites in various alloy systems, corrosion in aging aircraft, atomistic and continuum modeling of electrochemical processes, development of embeddable corrosion microinstruments, as well as the use of microfabrication methods to probe the fundamentals of localized corrosion.

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  • McDonnell Group

    Our group is interested in synthesis and integration of materials for nanoelectronics and sustainable energy. We seek to grow two dimensional, layered semiconductors with tunable properties designed to enhance, electronic, photovoltaic, and photocatalytic activity. We also study how these novel materials interface with insulators and metals since nano-device performance is often dominated by such interfaces.

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  • Opila Group

    Our research focuses on materials for use in extreme environments and can be applied to materials for use in aircraft engines, rocket engines, energy conversion technologies, and thermal protection systems.  We first create critical aspects of the use environment in the lab such as high temperatures (up to 2000°C), reactive gases (oxygen, water vapor), and high flow rates (hundreds of meters per second). We characterize materials before and after exposure using techniques as simple as weight change to sophisticated state-of-the-art microscopies and spectroscopies.

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  • Poon Group

    Our research group currently focuses on three projects: (i) Experimental and computational study of thermoelectric properties of semiconductors and semimetals. (ii) Synthesis of thin films and computational study of ferrimagnetic and antiferromagnetic heterostructures that show skyrmionic state and anomalous Hall effect. (iii) In our third project, we employ data science and experiment to study high-entropy alloys (HEAs) with specific properties in the complex high-dimensional composition space. 

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  • Reinke Group

    Our research group is anchored in experimental work that incorporates quantitative methods for image and spectroscopic data acquisition, and interpretation to develop mechanistic understanding of surface processes.Our approach is defined by the combination of precise deposition methods with in-situ analysis using surface science technique such as Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Spectroscopy (STM/STS), and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) to unlock geometric,bonding, and electronic structure.

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  • Scully Group

    My group's primary research interest is to understand the relationships between a material's structure and composition and properties related to environmental degradation. The properties of focused interest and activity are those associated with hydrogen embrittlement, stress corrosion cracking, localized corrosion, and passivity of materials.

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  • Sun Group

    Our team currently studies additive manufacturing processes and materials using synchrotron x-ray and other in situ/ex situ characterization tools. We are interested in understanding the physics underlying the energy-matter interactions and non-equilibrium material structural evolution involved in additive manufacturing processes.

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  • Wadley Group

    Our current research explores high temperature thermal and environmental coatings systems, microarchitectured materials including those with lattice and inverse opal topologies, and entropy stabilized refractory metal alloys and rare earth silicates. Our work has addressed many fundamental questions associated with the atomic assembly of nanoscopic materials from the vapor phase, the topological structuring of cellular materials, and the processing of high temperature coatings and composites.

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  • Zhigilei Group

    Our group's current research interests include multiscale modeling of materials behavior far from equilibrium, mechanisms of phase transformations, nanomaterials, and surface processes.

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  • Zhou Group

    Our research group applies computational thermodynamics and kinetics methods to the studies of metal alloys, additive manufacturing, high-temperature corrosion, and aqueous corrosion.

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