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Center for Complex and Active Materials

The Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) builds on UCI’s strengths in multidisciplinary science and engineering research, experiential learning, world-class facilities, and commitment to diversity. The primary mission of the Center is to establish foundational knowledge in materials science and engineering of new classes of materials offering unique and broad functionality via an interplay among design, simulation, synthesis, and advanced characterization.

The Center’s interdisciplinary team members work together to create materials with complex chemical compositions — able to exhibit unprecedented physical properties, such as the ability to withstand extreme environments having applications in national defense — and dynamic, responsive soft materials — able to mimic complex biological processes  serving as an interface with living systems for healthcare applications. Through seed projects, the Center engages new participants in emergent research directions. The Center attracts many junior scientists, including women, underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities, from across the nation and trains future leaders at all academic and professional levels to address critical societal challenges. The Center’s integrated activities — including novel materials research, partnerships with industry and national laboratories, entrepreneurial innovation, career development, and mentorship — are enabling a transformative long-term impact on fundamental science, advanced applications, and workforce development.

Program Highlights

UCI-MRSEC investigators develop a new capability of transmission electron microscopy imaging and electron energy loss spectroscopy to probe local phonon spectra around defects and stacking faults with ultrahigh spatial resolution.

Education Programs
• FutureMaterials (K-14)
CCAM members partner  with OC STEM, a collaborative public-private partnership network, to disseminate modules to K-12 teachers demonstrating science and technology innovations related to CCAM research. Via OC STEM’s network our modules will be used in a) Mobile FABLab (training and resources to pursue open-ended experiential STEM learning); b) Girls Maker Academy (mentors and empowers girls to embrace STEM by becoming “makers,” using, e.g., additive manufacturing and computer-aided design); c) FABcamp Series  (One-week summer camp for middle school students to gain hands-on experience in computer-aided design, basic coding, rapid prototyping, and fabrication technologies); d) STEM Corps (teaches college STEM majors instructional strategies to work with youth and technologies used across all of our outreach programs via workshops).

• Materials-SPIRE (high school and community college students)
M-SPIRE is an annual 2-week summer program for high school and community college students. UCI MRSEC members lead team- and project-based activities and mentor students via a hierarchical mentoring model. M-SPIRE interns get hands on experience in the fundamentals of materials research – design, synthesis and characterization -   on grand challenge topics studied in the CCAM.  M-SPIRE research will inspire and prepare students to pursue four-year programs in materials related disciplines.

• Materials REU
The CCAM Materials REU is an 8-week program with a focus on research to discover new materials and novel functionalities through structural design and molecular-scale control. REU participants will be matched with CCAM faculty and graduate student mentors who will guide and oversee student progress via weekly meetings and one-on-one mentoring. CCAM REU program will support up to18 participants in: (1) a one-week boot camp introducing fundamentals of MSE concepts to provide baseline knowledge to succeed on their REU project; (2)  design and execution of interdisciplinary materials research projects: (3) preparation for applying to advanced degree programs in the physical sciences and engineering; and 4) seminars and enrichment activities to build students’ skills to be successful in graduate programs.

Materials Bootcamp
CCAM will invite local 2-year and 4-year students to participate in the boot camp. Boot camp instructional content is available publicly each year after the REU program is completed.

Junior Research Fellows (JRF) Program
UCI strives to define best practices for inclusive excellence and provide a roadmap for not only increasing the pipeline of diverse candidates entering academia, but also retaining and creating an environment fostering success for junior fellows and faculty.  The Center will support development of a cohort of JRF, composed of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  JRF will benefit from structured activities, a formalized mentoring process, and development of strong scientific networks that are important for success. Activities include a CCAM seminar series, a Fellows-led journal club, professional development activities, and tailored curriculum. The MRSEC CCAM exchange program, will support short stays for JRF at partner institutions, lowering team science barriers and facilitating collaboration. Interdisciplinary and the strong collaborative research will give JRF ample exposure to new research ideas in a group environment, facilitating innovation and  a team science approach to address scientific challenges.

• Materials Innovation Slam
The Slam showcases and awards the best elevator pitch by MRSEC Junior Research Fellows, including materials researchers at UCI, partner, and neighboring institutions. As exemplified by the UC system’s annual Grad Slam, a slam enables presenters to share research accomplishments with the general public and increase their communication skills, preparing them to be scientific leaders and communicate the significance of their work.  The MRSEC Materials Innovation Slam will take place in Winter Quarter at the UCI Applied Innovation “Cove”  and include our MRSEC industrial partners as judges.  Three winners will receive a prize and honorary mention and repeat their presentation as “invited speakers” at the MRSEC Annual Symposium. Edited videos will be posted on the UCI MRSEC website and linked via social media to further disseminate the UCI MRSEC science.

Short Course in Materials Characterization
Short courses, held concurrently with our annual meeting, will showcase the programs and advanced technique innovations from CCAM members and our industry partners. The Irvine Materials Research Institute has world-class characterization resources for high-resolution and in-situ imaging and spectroscopy. Topical short courses will train researchers on technique innovations in order to amplify the impact of CCAM globally.

• Center for Transmission Electron Microscopy
• Laboratory for Electron and X-ray Instrumentation
• The Surface System Facility
• Thermal, Elemental, Mechanical, Physical and Rheological Facility
• Materials Characterization Center


Director/Facilities Director:
(949) 824-2368
Associate Director:
(949) 824-7640
Assistant Director:
Sung Joo
Education Director:
(949) 824-6830
Award DMR year started: