The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports a broad research program organized through five interdisciplinary research groups. The Center has an extensive educational program, ranging from K-12 through the graduate and postdoctoral level. These activities include a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduate program, which is nationally advertised and highly competitive. The MRSEC has developed an innovative Science and Engineering Day Camp targeted at seventh and eighth grade students from underrepresented minority groups attending nearby public schools. The Center supports well maintained shared experimental facilities which are made available to the broader scientific community. The MRSEC addresses emerging scientific opportunities by supporting a vigorous program of competitively selected seed projects. There are extensive collaborations with other academic institutions, industry, National Laboratories, and other sectors.
The interdisciplinary research group investigating microphotonic materials and structures is seeking to develop a new class of materials which aims to replace electrons with light as the chief carrier of information in optical devices. These materials, called photonic crystals, will allow the control of the propagation of light in very small dimensions. The group uses theoretical and experimental techniques to develop and test novel approaches. A second group is investigating nanostructured polymers to determine how electronically active polymers organize and behave at the molecular level. The objective of the group is to develop the chemistry and processing needed to achieve the materials properties desired for novel optical and electrical applications. A third group is focusing on mesoscopic semiconductor systems. These systems, involving perhaps a few hundred or thousand atoms, are models for the electronic semiconductor devices of the future. The group seeks to understand the fundamental physical principles which underlie the electronic transport through and between such nanostructures. A fourth group is investigating the microstructure and mechanical properties of polymeric materials. The goal of the group is to achieve large improvements in mechanical properties by tailoring the microstructure of structural polymeric materials. Fundamental physical phenomena are investigated by a fifth group, which focuses on substances called Mott insulators. These materials include high temperature superconductors. These materials hold significant, but yet unrealized, technological promise but also are extremely important from a basic scientific viewpoint. The group seeks to study the effect of doping these solids with other constituents, which will increase the fundamental understanding of these materials and the ability to develop them for technological applications.
Participants in the Center currently include 43 senior investigators, 14 postdoctoral associates, 41 graduate students, 47 undergraduates, and 19 technicians and other support personnel. Professor Robert J. Silbey directs the MRSEC.