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Teaching Materials Chemistry to Top-level Physics Students: A Phenomenological Approach

Dr Alexandre Mege-Revil | Ecole Centrale de Lille

Teaching Materials Chemistry to Top-level Physics Students: A Phenomenological Approach

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Most students at the ?cole Centrale de Lille are selected by a national competitive exam after two or three years of an intensive scientific course. Their specialties, upon arriving at our top-level engineering school, are oriented towards applied mathematics, computer sciences, electronics or mechanics. As a part of their training, they follow a teaching unit labeled Materials Science within the Matter Science department. This Materials Science module is focused on rather basic aspects of industrial materials, such as mechanical properties, binary diagrams and thermal treatments. Although several materials ? from different families ? are used as examples both in exercises and in lab sessions, the common thread is steel. This presentation aims at showing the phenomenological approach ? 'from theory to practice' ? that is used to guide the students into materials science, and its results. At their arrival after their preparatory years whose content is high in mathematics / low in chemistry, the students have been used to understanding scientific topics through the interpretation of equations, but seldom understand the phenomena. They are not familiar with the paradigms of chemistry and tend to consider unscientific an equation-free teaching unit. Our phenomenological approach of Materials Science allows the students to improve their understanding of the physics and chemistry that describe the behavior of matter. Furthermore, giving them an approach of the main chemical paradigms helps them understand the links between mathematics, physics and chemistry, which naturally leads them to ponder on the validity of the models they apply in other scientific domains. The Materials Science module is usually praised by the students when they evaluate their various teaching module each year, being both satisfied by the scientific content and its approach.