Blending Education and Polymer Science: Student Contributions to a Thermodynamic Property Database
Roselyne B. Tchoua, Jian Qin, Debra J. Audus, Kyle Chard, Ian Foster, Juan de Pablo
Structured databases of materials properties play a central role in the everyday research activities of materials scientists. Researchers turn to these databases to quickly discover, query, compare, and aggregate various properties allowing for the development of new materials. However, while there are many examples of commonly used databases, a significant number of important properties remain locked within the tables, figures, and text of publications. While information extraction techniques can be applied to unstructured content, these techniques are not yet capable of accurate unsupervised extraction. To address these shortcomings, while simultaneously preparing the next generation of scientists for their future endeavors, we developed a novel course-based approach in which students develop skills in polymer physics and apply their knowledge by assisting with the creation of a database. The students also use their perspective to suggest solutions to the challenging problem of database creation, which will continue to inhibit materials design without concerted efforts. This paper describes the structure, content, and outcomes of this experimental course with a focus on student feedback.