Mark De Guire receives CSE Graduate Teaching Award

Since he was young, Associate Professor Mark De Guire has had a strong interest in the impact of technology on the environment. That interest motivated him to create EMSE 349/449: Role of Materials in Energy and Sustainability, which he has taught every fall semester since 2014.  While there are many courses around the country that focus on either the positive impacts or the negative, De Guire’s course covers both. Available to both undergraduate and graduate students, the course has attracted not only students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, but also from departments across the Case School of Engineering and Case Western Reserve University as a whole.

De Guire’s efforts in EMSE 349/449 recently earned him the Case School of Engineering’s Graduate Teaching Award, which is awarded annually to a faculty member who demonstrates exemplary teaching.

"It's very gratifying to be recognized by colleagues and students for this course,” said De Guire. “The landscape of energy and materials is constantly evolving, and introducing these new developments keeps the course fresh and current. My goal is to ground students in the technical and quantitative dimensions of sustainability. The world will be dealing with these issues for generations to come, and engineers and scientists must lay a sound foundation for effective laws and policies.”

The course has two main sections: engineered materials as consumers of resources (such as raw materials and energy); and materials as key contributors to energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies.  Some of the topics covered include: energy usage in the U.S. and the world; availability of raw materials, including strategic materials; factors affecting global reserves and annual world production; resource demand of materials production, fabrication, and recycling; design strategies and how the inclusion of environmental impacts in design criteria can affect design outcomes and material selection; roles of engineered materials in energy technologies, including photovoltaics, solar thermal, fuel cells, wind, batteries and capacitors; materials in energy-efficient lighting; and energy return on energy invested. A multi-stage, small group research paper and oral presentation are included in the course. David Scannapieco, a PhD candidate who has both taken De Guire’s classes and served as his TA, pointed out that De Guire revises the lectures every year.  “Plots, pictures, and conclusions from recent studies surrounding the topics in the course shows an outstanding dedication to provide his students with the most pertinent information available,” said Scannapieco.

De Guire describes the role of materials in energy and sustainability as “pressing global concerns.”  Most technology relies on engineered materials, placing increasing demands on global resources, such as minerals, water, fuels and other forms of energy.  Materials can also contribute to waste and emissions of pollutants. 

However, materials can enable more sustainable, efficient, and renewable practices and technologies, having a positive impact as well.  Engineered materials can improve health care, communications, transportation, clean water, housing, and agriculture.

Benjamin Pratt, who is pursuing a M.S. in physics, described De Guire as one of the best professors he had in his career at CWRU.  “I can safely say his layout of the lectures, and coursework is the best I've experienced from any professor in terms of both increasing the competency of the student while allowing the student to gain confidence when working with new course material,” he said.  He praised De Guire’s knowledge of the material and his “ability to teach at the level of his students.”  Pratt said that he particularly appreciated the forum De Guire set up to give students a chance to ask and answer questions.

Alex Wong, who recently graduated from CWRU with a M.S. in mechanical engineering, also said that EMSE 449 was one of his favorite classes of his CWRU career.  “Professor De Guire manages to present the extremely broad topic of materials in energy and sustainability in a way that each aspect of the course feels not only well covered, but also well loved,” said Wong, who appreciated De Guire’s passion for the material.  He appreciated that De Guire gave students the opportunity to choose from a range of topics for research assignments and then present their findings to the class.  “By making each student an educator and an expert in something they enjoyed, Professor De Guire not only optimized the coverage of cutting-edge technology and research, but also helped foster a passion for the course material within the class,” said Wong.  By the end of the semester, Wong’s interest in sustainable energy was even stronger than it had been when he first signed up for the class.

Kimberly Gliebe, a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering, also enjoyed the wide variety of topics available for students to pursue, saying that it “helped us stay engaged and learn what mattered most to us.”  Gliebe added, “Professor De Guire always took time to answer students’ questions and was honest when he didn't know an answer and could get back to us. He put a lot of work into providing constructive feedback about our assignments and helped us be better writers and presenters. He tried to stay up to date with current technology, which is very important for those of us entering the field of renewable energy.”

"(De Guire was) willing to help us think through our ideas for reports and presentations,” said Austin Ngo, a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering.  “He also gave feedback on assignments which encouraged further exploration of the material rather than concrete answers, which I think is appropriate for a course on a field of engineering which is rapidly evolving.”

Peitian Wang, who is pursuing a PhD in materials science and engineering, valued De Guire’s accessibility.  “If I have any questions about homework, he will reply to my email immediately and settle my confusion in detail. He prepares his class seriously, when we encounter the difficult knowledge points, he will repeat teaching them until all students understand. He is good at listening to questions from students in class and will answer them patiently.”

In addition to EMSE 349/449, De Guire teaches EMSE 327: Thermodynamic Stability and Rate Processes and EMSE 345: Engineered Materials for Biomedical Applications. In the past, he has taught ENGR 145: Chemistry of Materials. He chairs the Undergraduate Studies Committee in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and serves as the faculty advisor of the Undergraduate Materials Society.