Superhero Science at UC Davis

Ricardo Castro, a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at U.C. Davis, is taking things to a whole new level in order to hold the interest of students who might otherwise become distracted. Professor Castro was reflecting on the details of modern superheroes one day and decided to take things a step further. Trusty lab notebook in hand, he began to study what exactly it was that made these heroes “super.” He will be sharing that information in a series of lectures with his class and encouraging them to take things even further than that.

Trusty lab notebook in hand

Media vs. Science

As interesting as science is, there are a lot of details that can lead to distraction. The completed studies offer a snapshot of a new discovery or verification of an old idea, but the work behind those studies is often time-consuming and tedious. On top of that, social networks have made it possible for students to be distracted by people outside the classroom, even when they should be studying. Professor Castro decided to bring media and science together to help students maintain interest, using two subjects they were already focused on: science and superheroes.

Subjects of Interest

Who would have thought that a college student might have a laboratory notebook that contained notes about Wolverine? That’s exactly what U.C. Davis students can expect when they start looking at the bio-engineering behind Wolverine’s skeletal structure. What about the crystalline structure and alloying involved in Iron Man’s suit? Even Thor’s power over his hammer will be examined, though they aren’t likely to unravel the mystery behind Captain America’s ability to make it move. Speaking of Captain America, students can expect to examine the concepts of composites that make such strength a reality.

Dissection and Examination

While many college students expect dissection to be a part of a science class, they are probably thinking about taking a closer look at things like frogs or snakes. What will they dissect when it comes to a materials science perspective? Elements of superheroes. Students aren’t just going to talk about the powers that make these heroes great, but how those powers came to be and whether or not they can be replicated. Think in terms of comparing things like Iron Man’s arc-reactor to current atomic batteries.

Not only does the professor hope to keep students more interested by using this method, but he is also expecting students to use their knowledge to create a few ideas of their own. In fact, the Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes Competition will take things up a notch as students enter a competition to create their own superheroes, using realistic, scientific methodology and elements.

Parents: Now may not be the time to discourage your children from reading comic books and rushing out to see the latest Avengers movie. If anything, such entertainment elements may play a large role in their success as students this year, or in the future. So, if you see your child with lab notebook and comic book under the same arm, think nothing of it. It’s just another day spent studying materials science.

Scientific Notebook

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