My teaching focuses on student learning.

Hopefully you're now thinking: "well, that's a bit obvious!" Which is exactly the student learning environment I strive to create. By designing my courses so that complex topics come off as "obvious" I believe that students can understand and retain more information. To make topics seem obvious, I focus on equipping students with personal relevance, experience, and an intellectual understanding of supporting material that makes the complexity seem intuitive.

Some friends from a lecture slide

Some friends from a lecture slide near the end of a lecture each color is introduced slide by slide, and the silly drawings provide a story line to help students link the important concepts together

My teaching merges the importance of understanding fundamental chemical principals with the relevance of products used in the world around us. I use frequent in class demonstrations and hand specimens to help connect the blackboard material in meaningful ways to a diversity of student interests and passions. I am an advocate of pushing educational experiences beyond the typical classroom to create an immersive learning experience. My classes often include fieldtrips, and team projects while introducing opportunities for extracurricular engagement.

I have often found that students are most fully invested in the learning process when they drive the questions, and the most promising way I have found to motivate individual interests is through extra-curricular activities. While at Stanford, I played a key role in increasing the capacity of the Stanford ceramics club, a student organization charged with educating the Stanford community about ceramics, a medium that encompasses art, science, and culture. Additionally, I helped set up the Stanford mechanical engineering project realization lab's blacksmithing area, a historically important component of mechanical engineering that provides an ideal venue for experiencing and motivating interest in materials science, phase equilibria, and metallurgy.

Olivine and YAG solid-state laser rods

Linking intellectual pursuits with tactile ones During a guest lecture for a Stanford Art History course, Ryan connects art history PhD students with clay, in-between describing the importance of reduction-oxidation chemistry in Greek black-figure pottery. Photo credit: Professor Jody Maxmin


Below is a list of courses I am particularly excited about teaching:

Undergraduate courses

  • Introduction to thermodynamics
  • An undergraduate science/engineering major course that introduces students to the laws of thermodynamics and how these laws control many of the processes around them. Students learn to think about thermodynamic processes with regards to the encompassing system, and gain an understanding of heat, entropy, volume, pressure, work, and mass flow. As the course progresses, discussions based off visuals and the classrooms experience with energy transform into the formal mathematical definitions, connecting and guiding intuition into an appreciative comprehension of thermodynamic potentials.

  • Introduction to Geology
  • An introduction to the sciences (Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Biology, Palaeontology, Statistics, Hazards, Geography, Materials, Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Geomorphology) under the guise of being "rocks for jocks"

    Text: Essentials of Geology, Stephen Marshak. Website: Moderngeology.com, yours truly

  • Introduction to environmental chemistry
  • An undergraduate course that introduces college level concepts of basic chemistry at the intersection of the environment and humanity's influence on it.

    Text: Principles of Environmental Chemistry, James E. Girard.

  • Ceramics: Art, science, engineering and culture
  • An interdisciplinary course aimed at providing an appreciation for the diversity of disciplines important to ceramics. The course begins with a historic introduction to ceramics as a material while highlighting some of its many uses in society. Students discuss their views on a variety of ceramic pieces, from which the course introduces aesthetics, the variety of sensory inputs and how they are valued. The course introduces students to the role of chemical composition in determining material properties and outlines the chemical makeup of ceramics. An ethnographic overview of cultural values with respect to ceramics separates a second chemistry discussion on the health and safety implications of oxide chemistry. Technological ceramics are introduced in parallel to ceramic engineering, clearly defining the ubiquity and long standing relationship of humans and ceramics. The class culminates in a term paper in which students discuss the development, functional purpose, aesthetic virtues, and manufacturing process of a ceramic object commonplace in a current society.

    Intermediate courses

  • Prototyping for the scientist and engineer
  • This upper division undergraduate and graduate level laboratory course empowers students with action based approaches for conceptualizing, designing, and creating technical apparatuses. A mix of hands on individual and team based assignments prepare students to be innovative but well-reasoned thinkers in both the industrial work place and the academic laboratory. The course covers design principles, materials selection, fabrication techniques, metrology, and uncertainty.

    Advanced courses

  • Spectroscopy and symmetry
  • A graduate level course that connects atomic properties and symmetry to their spectroscopic implications. The course emphasizes understanding the limitations and capabilities of a technique for solving proposed questions. Through the course, students are asked to analyze spectra from a variety of techniques, giving students a peripheral understanding of Raman, Infrared (IR), X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Prompt gamma neutron activation analysis (PGNAA) and the LIGO project.

    Text: Modern Spectroscopy by J. Michael Hollas, and numerous course reader style handouts.

  • Surface science and catalysis
  • A graduate level course that covers the remarkable properties of surfaces and their catalytic properties. The course starts by grounding students in the atomic surface structures of well-known bulk materials. From here the course introduces more complex surfaces, as well as the nucleation, deposition and growth of new surfaces. Midway thought the course, the focus shifts to catalysis, starting with adsorption/desorption kinetics as a starting point to understand liquid-solid interfaces. The course concludes with heterogeneous catalysis and an overview of computational and spectroscopic techniques for understanding and optimizing this process.

    Text: Surface Science by Kurt W. Kolasinski.

  • Thermodynamics and phase equilibria
  • This graduate level course gives students an in-depth understanding of thermodynamics as it applies to binary phase diagrams. Modeled after Stanford professor Alberto Salleo's similarly title course, my course develops upon students undergraduate level understanding of thermodynamics as it increases their comfort level with the material.