Carnegie Mellon University

Faculty: Michael McHenry mchenry

  • Undergraduate major: B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 1980
  • Ph.D. in Electronic Materials at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988; Electronic Structure and Magnetisn in Quasicrystals (supervised by N.J. Grant and R.C. O'Handley)
  • Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Physics, by courtesy

Courses taught at CMU:

  • Summer APEA: Introduction to Nanotechnolofy
  • Structure of Materials
  • Phase Relations and Phase Diagrams
  • Structure, Properties and Performance Relationships in Magnetic Materials
  • Applied Magnetism and Magnetic Materials

Research Interests: The research interests of M. E. McHenry involve developing the understanding of the magnetic property of materials.  This includes interfacing theoretical and experimental studies of magnetic materials.  Superconducting materials are included since the current carrying capacity of superconductors is a magnetic property (i.e determined by the ability of these materials to pin magnetic flux). He initiated a program to investigate fundamental magnetic properties of magnetic surfaces, interfaces and multilayers.  He has had past interest in the magnetic properties of icosahedral structures includes the study of magnetic quasicrystals and the magnetic and superconducting properties of fullerenes.  His recent efforts have been in magnetism in nanostructures.  He was the PI on a MURI program studying high temperature magnetic materials which was followed by his recent development of soft magnetic materials for motor and power electronics applications with Magnetics, A Division of Spang and Company. He studies magnetic materials for electromagnetic interference shielding with Northrup-Grumman. He has initiated studies fundamental properties of magnetic oxides for applications in high frequency inductive components with the Penn State Electro-optics Center. He has also initiated research in the area of magnetic nanotechnology for applications in medicine including thermoablative cancer therapy, tagging of tissue scaffolds and magnetoelastic ferrogels and polymers.  High frequency heating of magnetic nanoparticles for solder reflow is being explored with Intel.  Magnetocaloric cooling applications are being explored with Ferrosolutions.  He is studying magnetic alloys for Westinghouse Bettis.  He is also studying magnetic materials and sensing for extraterrestrial exploration in collaboration with the Spanish space agency, INTA. His work in power electronics has led to the awarding of an ARPA-E grant in 2011 to study magnetic materials for solar photovoltaics. 

Did you participate in research as an undergraduate student?  If so, how did that experience help you in guiding students?  I interned for Diamond Shamrock Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio.  I worked on on corrosion of noble metal coated electrodes.   The experience of setting up a laboratory facility to measure corrosion taught me how to work in a group setting and interact in an interdisciplinary environment. 

Why do you work with undergraduate researchers?  Does it impact your own career directly?  I work with undergraduate researchers as a way of giving back and honoring the many people who have influenced my field.  It is gratifying to be able to repay the kindness of others by providing undergraduates with some of the guidance that was so graciously provided to me.  I also work with undergraduates because their enthusiasm and curiosity is infectious and helps me stay young. 

How do you approach and structure your mentoring of undergraduate researchers?  Why is it valuable for you?  The less structure the better.  I provide challenging problems for them to impress me with their ability to solve.  I insist that they work together as a group, acknowledge one another's individual accomplishments,  learn from my graduate students, teach their skills to the younger undergraduates but most importunely that they think for themselves and never hide their light under a bushel basket.   I also try to instill in them and remind myself that we are lucky to be able to do research and that others in society sacrifice for us to have the facilities and resources for research at our disposal.  As a result we should recognize our duty to serve those people as responsible stewards of their trust. 

Did you benefit from a faculty mentor in your undergraduate years?  My undergraduate teacher Linn Hob's moved to MIT and was instrumental in promoting my case for admission there.  Another undergraduate teacher, Terry Mitchell, helped to promote my case for a post-doctoral position at Los alamos National Lab.  My undergraduate teacher, Arthur Heuer, has had me back to Case to give talks on my research.  It is thrilling to go back to your alma mater and see that they are proud of your accomplishments. My thesis supervisor, Bob O'Handley, influenced me more than any other mentor I had.  He would often put more "red ink" on my drafts of papers than I put black ink to begin with.  He taught me to think critically and articulate my ideas professionally.  He did it in a way that I never felt stupid or inadequate,  I always felt that he valued my opinions but required that they be communicated intelligently.   Two other graduate thesis committee members, Gretchen Kalonji and Keith Johnson, also welcomed me in to their research groups, published with me and taught me numerous scientific and life skills.  I also took 3 courses from Millie Dresselhaus.  I still reach for her notes almost weekly.  My instructor in Crystallography, Bernie Wuensch, along with Linn Hobbs, were instrumental in my choosing to write a text on the Structure of Materials.  I have had the thrill of sitting at a Departmental visiting committee dinner next to my other thesis supervisor, Nick Grant, who is also an esteemed alumnus of CMU. 

What do you learn from working with undergraduate researcers?  Patience :)   I am in awe of their spirit and determination.  I am impressed by their energy, drive, curiosity and especially their dedication to serving others. 

When you face an obstacle in your work, what do you usually do?  What advice do you have for students who may face a glitch or hardship in a project?  When you face an obstacle in your work it is helpful to read something of the travails of other human beings.  As I relate in my textbook:  In the movie, Shadowlands, Anthony Hopkins plays the role of the famous writer and educator, C. S. Lewis.  In one scene Lewis asks a probing question of a student: Why do we read?  (Which could very well be rephrased: Why do we study?  Why do we learn?).  The answer given is simple and provocative.  It is "We read to know that we are not alone."   When we face an obstacle it it helps to know we are not alone. 

If you could summarize your own research experience in one word, what would it be?  Unfinished...