The Wulff Lecture is an engaging and accessible presentation designed for a broad audience. Its purpose is to inform, inspire, and motivate MIT undergraduates to explore the study of materials science and engineering. The event extends an invitation to all of MIT, with a special emphasis on welcoming first-year students.

History

This lecture series pays tribute to the legacy of the late Professor John Wulff—an esteemed educator known for his skillful, thought-provoking, and entertaining teaching style. Wulff was a faculty member in DMSE’s earlier iteration, the Department of Metallurgy, from 1937 until his retirement in 1973. He introduced a groundbreaking approach to teaching general chemistry, launching the popular first-year subject, 3.091 (Introduction to Solid State Chemistry), in 1968, and delivered the inaugural Wulff Lecture in 1977.

Lecture Archive

Below is an archive of past Wulff Lectures, featuring MIT faculty, alumni, and materials science and engineering luminaries from around the world.

Fall 2023: Sossina Haile

Northwestern University’s Sossina Haile, a DMSE alum, focused on advancing renewable energy through hydrogen-based fuel cells. She proposed a sustainable process, extracting pure hydrogen from ammonia. Emphasizing ammonia’s advantages, including existing pipelines and high transmission capacity, Haile highlighted cost-effectiveness, non-toxicity, and earth abundance.

DMSE alum William Woodford, co-founder and CTO of startup Form Energy, discussed advancing multi-day energy storage to combat climate change. He emphasized material science’s role in decarbonization and presented Form Energy’s iron-air battery, aiming to revolutionize global energy storage and decarbonize various industries.

Professor John Mauro, of Penn State’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, discussed the historical and future significance of glass. Highlighting its role in technology and society, he introduced LionGlass, a sustainable glass technology, addressing the environmental impact of glass production by reducing carbon emissions and eliminating the need for carbonate batch materials.

DMSE’s Professor Polina Anikeeva discussed innovative interdisciplinary approaches to address nervous system disorders, particularly Parkinson’s disease. Exploring solutions like neural probes and hydrogel-fiber devices, Anikeeva showcased the pivotal role of diverse disciplines in revolutionizing medical treatments and inspiring future materials scientists.

Professor Angela Belcher, of the Department of Biological Engineering and DMSE, explored harnessing organisms’ 500 million years of inorganic material expertise. She discussed research to evolve organisms through DNA sequences with the goal of designing advanced technologies—smarter, adaptable, and eco-friendly—addressing challenges in electronics, medicine, energy, and the environment.

DMSE’s Professor Michael Cima covered three projects at the intersection of materials and medicine. He discussed a comprehensive drug form screening system, insights from paramagnetism applied by T2 Biosystems in molecular diagnostics, and an innovative use of medical-grade silicone to measure oxygen levels in hypoxic tumors during brachytherapy.

In her book, The Alchemy of Us, Ainissa Ramirez examines inventions—clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, and more—and reveals how they shaped the human experience. In her Wulff Lecture, she shares stories of how technologies have influenced our world.