With the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology, the boundary between physics and chemistry in different research areas is gradually disappearing. As a consequence, many physics PhD students face the need to acquire substantial chemistry-related knowledge, in order to carry out their research work effectively (e.g. on molecular (opto-) electronics, semiconducting nano-wires, and novel nano-materials). For most physics PhD students, the acquisition of specific knowledge in Chemistry through self-study is not efficient, due to the nearly complete lack of undergraduate education on this subject. Nevertheless, many useful Chemistry concepts can be learnt very rapidly and effectively, if their introduction takes full advantage of the knowledge that physics PhD students have already acquired (e.g., quantum mechanics, statistical physics, thermodynamics). These considerations provide the motivation and the aim of the PhD workshop “Chemistry for Physicists”: teaching efficiently to physics PhD students concepts in chemistry of nano-electronic materials.
The duration of the workshop will be one week. During this week, the PhD students will attend lectures both in the morning and in the afternoon (approximately six hours per day). The lectures will be structured into “mini-courses” covering four or five different main topics. They will be given by (national and international) experts, active in Chemistry research subjects with a large physics component. This will enable bridging the gap between lecturers and students and will permit to establish more easily a “common language”, which is essential for the efficient transfer of Chemistry knowledge to physicists.
In preparation for the “Chemistry for Physicists” workshop, prospective attendees will be assigned material (e.g., selected chapters of books) to be studied before the workshop starts. This preparation material will contribute to enhance the efficiency of the knowledge transfer during the lectures. We also plan to give simple assignments to the participants, which will be worked out in small groups. These assignments will be useful to stimulate the students to critically analyze the concepts that they have been exposed to in class. Additionally, they will serve as a starting point for discussing these concepts. As much as possible, we will ask all lecturers to stay at the workshop for the entire week, in order to contribute to discussions and to answer questions from the participants.
The central topics of the workshop have already been selected. One of the main “mini-courses” will focus on molecular electronics from a Chemist’s perspective (approximately eight or nine one-hour lessons; prof. J.C. Hummelen (RUG) has already agreed to teach this mini-course). Another mini-course will be devoted to electrochemistry, mainly as a spectroscopic tool for the investigation of molecules and other materials, e.g. nano-clusters. Other topics include fabrication and characterization techniques of chemical nano-structures and a more theoretical mini-course on electronic transport in molecular materials. For these topics we already have a list of suitable lecturers, who remain to be contacted. The details of the final program will depend on the availability of the individual lecturers.
The “Chemistry for Physicists” workshop will be part of the Delft-Leiden Casimir Research School. It will be also open to PhDs and postdocs from other Dutch universities who are interested in participating (we expect a total of 40 to 50 participants, including the lecturers). It is envisioned that, at the end of the workshop, the participants will have a critical knowledge of relevant chemistry concepts in the area of electronic nano-materials and that they will be able to deepen this knowledge efficiently by self-study when needed.