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Materials Science Featured Faculty
Dr. Mark Mc Ellistrem
Dr. Marc Mc Ellistrem

What are you doing in the featured picture?

Several of our experiments involve reactions between reactive surfaces and molecules or metals.  For this reason, many of our instruments are housed in vacuum chambers.  The instrument in the picture is a scanning tunneling microscope (normally housed in a vacuum chamber) that I and my student collaborator Kara Denis are repairing.  This microscope is capable of imaging individual atoms on a surface. 

What topics in chemistry or materials science do you study?

I am an Analytical chemist.  Analytical chemists have traditionally focused on identifying an unknown compound, and then determining how much is present.  Much of the science shown on CSI has its roots in Analytical chemistry.  My focus has been to apply the ideas of “measurement science” and Analytical chemistry to the study of reactions on surfaces, especially how those reactions proceed on the atomic scale.  These days, such studies are part of “nanoscience”.

What kind of research do you do?

My research has two main foci:  the first is the study of surface reactions, and how surface structure and surface chemistry are interrelated.  The second has grown out of a collaboration with Alan DiSpirito at Iowa State University.  Here, the focus is to understand and hopefully use a unique biomolecule that Dr. DiSpirito has discovered.

What experiences and advantages do chemistry or materials science students have at UW - Eau Claire?

The interaction between faculty and students in materials science and chemistry especially through one-on-one collaborative research is a huge advantage.  There are typically 20 or more students working with chemistry faculty in research during the summer each year; the number in materials science is much smaller, but we hope that it will grow in the next few years.

Why should a student study STEM at UW - Eau Claire?

There are many schools that do an excellent job of teaching STEM, and UW - Eau Claire is one of the best (I should know – I have been a member of 7 universities in my life).  Beyond that, its important to realize that the US economy’s basis is increasingly shifting towards STEM.  Students who complete a STEM degree at UW - Eau Claire are in high demand and find employment.  So, if you have an interest in STEM, we can get you where you want to go.

What have students with materials science experience done after graduation?

Two of our recent May 2009 graduates have gone on to jobs or graduate school!  Kara (featured in the picture) just started a new job at Georgia Pacific in Aug. 2009 (even in a ‘down’ economy – nice going Kara!).  Another student, John is off to grad school in Texas studying materials science.

What is your favorite course to teach? 

Quantitative Analysis (Chem 213) – a sophomore level chemistry class.  I enjoy the course because chemistry fundamentals form the foundation for applied science (in this case, making chemical measurements).  I enjoy the pragmatic nature of the course; I also appreciate that if I work carefully, I get useful results.

"Students are involved in every phase of our research – sample prep, making measurements, writing up their observations, and preparing data for publication.  They also help fix the equipment when it breaks." 

Do you get to do anything fun or unique in your work? 

Chemists are always blowing stuff up – sometimes we even intend to do it.

What do you love about science?

I enjoy the fact that an understanding of the natural world affords you some level of control – and that we can use that control to produce something of value to other people.

What facilities or equipment do you get to use in your work?

The Materials Science Center is home to about a dozen unique instruments.  Working with these instruments in the study of matter, and teaching students in both the instrumental methods and the underlying science is what makes my “job” fun.

Best advice for students?

You as a student are in control of your learning, not your instructors.  We are here to guide and assist, but, unfortunately, most of the “heavy lifting” must be done by you.

Favorite Eau Claire restaurant? 

Nelson’s Cheese Factory

Favorite place to travel for fun?   


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