Donald Sadoway interview,
conducted on August 2, 2002 at MIT
Preliminary note: This transcription has been left verbatim in order to allow one to follow the streamed interview. I am embarrassed to leave my own lack of eloquence so visible, but the gain is in showing Prof. Sadoway's exuberance. I would recommend listening to the streamed audio files to get the full exhilaration of the "Sadoway experience". This file was transcribed by Helena Fu.
Donald Sadoway is John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry and Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow in MIT's Department of Materials Science & Engineering.
Audio file in QuickTime format (1hr30mins) of interview's first section:
Transcript and audio file of second section here.
Arne Hessenbruch: I notice you're a U.S. citizen but you started out in Canada?
Donald Sadoway: Correct.
Arne Hessenbruch: Were you Canadian before?
Donald Sadoway: Yes.
Arne Hessenbruch: So where did you grow up?
Donald Sadoway: I grew up, I was born in Toronto, and I was born in a town called Ashua, which is a town about 35 miles east of Toronto. For all my university studies, I was at the University of Toronto, finished a PhD there, and wanted to take a postdoc abroad. I knew I wanted to be in academics, but by the mid 70s, the Canadian university system was very much constipated, there were very few vacancies. The average age was, the faculty was such that there weren't a lot of retirements on the imminent horizon. So one of my faculty advisors in Toronto took me aside and said, "You know I can see you're interested in academics, you really ought to post-doc and fatten up your resume, and eventually something will break loose here". So I got a fellowship, a NATO fellowship, and was able to go anywhere in the NATO Alliance, and chose to come to MIT. So I spent a year here postdoc-ing, and,but, this faculty member also told me, "you probably need to get some teaching experience, "take out immigration papers for the United States, it's got a larger economy, and so on". And you know, I was twenty-something at the time, and I, normally you get advice like that, goes in one ear and out the other, and I don't know why, but for some reason I took that advice and I went to the University Avenue consulate ...the US consulate, which happens to be four to five blocks from the university. And I took out the papers, and it took about a year and a half before the application made it's way through. So when I came to the United States for my post-doc, I did not come on a J visa, I came as a green card holder, which was a Godsend, because during my time as a postdoc, this vacancy opened up in the faculty and I was sitting here with a green card, there was no way that they would have fought to get a J visa commuted into a thing, so so I'm here largely because there were a few people who took a critical interest in me in a critical stage in my career. The person that was really good at giving me this tip, and I see him from time to time, and I always tease him, and say "You see the mess you got me into". He's a Scotsman, Alex McLean, and he was an immigrant to the United States and worked in the steel industry here for a number of years and then eventually ended up in Canada. And he's a man in his late 60s, he's close to retirement. And then there were other people, I mean, obviously teachers in high school, some of whom took an interest enough to just, you know, it's like residence on a swing. You know? You can make the swing go yourself, but if someone gives a push, at just the right moment, can give you such a boost, and the inverse is also true. Someone can put that finger up and break the motion of the swing at a critical moment. Unfortunately, I suffered a number of those, but not in a way that debilitated me totally. You know there were some people along the way, and I was inspired by some good teachers.
Donald Sadoway: The reason I teach the way I do is not because I went to teacher's school, it's because I just watched, and I watch people, and I said, "That's something worth emulating, that's something worth pursuing it to the extent that I do it". And it's in flux, I have video tapes of all of my lectures, going back to, oh, since I began that class. I started lecturing it in 1993, and I can show you given lectures where the style is very different, you know, there's been enormous growth from watching the tapes. Because I would watch the tapes and I started almost yelling at the TV. I said, "What are you doing? You left something out!" But when I was lecturing, I thought, "Well this is great!" I read the stuff on the page and I thought, "This is clear", and I'd say, "They're obviously not studying, they're lazy, the students; before they used to be really good, but now look at them, they're admitting all of the poets, they're not admitting the kids who have passion for science." And then I watched a few of my lectures, and I said, "There's some work necessary here".
Arne Hessenbruch: Mea culpa?
Donald Sadoway: Yes. So then you get better and better, and eventually, people are saying, "Okay, this is clear". And this year we had 530 students, it was the largest class at MIT. And there's only 440 seats, so, what happens, we go to TV! So they videotaped and broadcast at night, from 8pm to 2am. Six times. I was getting email from people who weren't in the class. I said, "You people are sick, what are you doing watching this stuff?" But it was, someone was channel surfing, and started watching it. We were hoping to thin out the class, I would never say in class that I didn't want people to come to class, but we were hoping that some of the fraternity boys would, you know.... What I didn't know was that the fraternities don't have access to MIT cable. So it didn't help at all. The class was fully occupied the entire semester, but people who had been to lectures were watching them and saying, "It was great, because there was a section there that went too quickly for me, and so I got to see it again." This is bizzare. It's....
Arne Hessenbruch: Maybe I could have a clip of that. [We would like to stream it here.]
Donald Sadoway: Sure. Oh you can, I'll find the funny ones, the glorious stuff where all the last lectures. Have you seen the last lecture? Did you go... with the champagne and everything?
Arne Hessenbruch: Champagne? I don't remember the champagne...
Donald Sadoway: Oh, the last lecture this year was all the dewy eyed stuff I'd said, but this time I wore a tuxedo and I had champagne and talked about the binary phase diagram of water with various solutions. Then I explained to them how champagne was made, clarified by the invention of another woman, Veuve Cliquot. What she did, she was the one who clarified champagne, because prior to Veuve Cliquot, champagne was a very murky beverage. Which explains why traditional champagne glasses are frosted or have all the cut glass on them so as to sort of blunt the, you know it's a beautiful beverage but it's kind of turbid. Because you have the entire process in the bottle, you're trapping this CO2 bubbles, but all of the decay from the yeast cells is going to the bottom, and that's why you have the deep well. But when you uncork the bottle invariably some of that stuff gets stirred up so you pour it, it's a delightful beverage, I tell them it's Nature's perfect beverage. And then you have now all of this sediment and silt and so on. So what she did is she said, "OK, what we'll do is turn the bottles upside down so all of the silt will collect on the underside of the cork." Now how to uncork the bottle without spilling the contents? You plunge it into chilled brine, you freeze an ice plug in the neck, you remove the cork, the ice is holding the liquid inside, now you turn the bottle right side up, the ice starts melting from the outside in, as soon as it's slippery BOOM, the ice goes blowing out the top, taking the last bit of sediment, you quickly recork the bottle, you've lost almost no bubbles, you've clarified the beverage, and now we have clear, gorgeous champagne. So I tell them the whole story, and I teach them how to chill champagne. I have the ice and water solution, and all this is going on, and we're doing some phase diagrams, and then I tell them, I bought a bottle of Veuve Cliquot Rosé, because she was the first to market Rosé champagne. I was explaining all of this, showing them how alcohol is made, wine and so on, and all this is chemistry, and you can hear a pin drop because this is interesting. Christmas is coming, they have to be prepared to go home and entertain their families. I said, the class ends when that cork pops. Then I teach them how to uncork the champagne, you know, take the foil off and then six turns, one, two three four five six, then it comes off and I tell them, just very delicately, you don't need a vulgar pot with foam, that's for flip ball locker rooms, it's déclassé. You do a pop like this, then take a big cheer, you know when Dom Perignon first drank it he said, what, "I feel as though I'm drinking stars". It's so fantastic, it's great! And does it have anything to do with chemistry? Yes! It does! They'll remember that far more than some silly equation. Plus, these people in large measures are socially underdeveloped, bad role models here. You have to see a man in a tuxedo breaking champagne before noon. I wear a white tie and tails to the final exam. Because I've taught them that the exam is called a celebration of learning. And they all tease me about it, they actually adopt this sort of caricature and silliness. And it's good, they understand that the exam is not a timeline, trying to weed out the lazy and figure out who really belongs here. I tell them at the beginning, "You know, I assume you're going to pass. The only people who don't pass choose not to". So I'm not here to weed you out, everyone who's here in this room belongs here. Now let's learn together. So today we're going to celebrate, it's a celebration of learning. So I show up in the white tie and they all smile, because of this guy who shows up - most of my colleagues they don't even go to the exams. Many of my students, they say, "What are you doing here today? I said, "Well, it's a celebration of learning." But they say, "Yeah, but you don't have to lecture, you could be traveling today." I said, "Well I wouldn't miss this for the world." All of this, trying to build a culture of love of learning. So how the hell is the student supposed to love learning when the body language of the instructor is, "I hate you, I hate this material, I hate being here, I would rather be anywhere but here".
Arne Hessenbruch: Which is what my professors did.
Donald Sadoway: It's still common here, believe me, it's still common here. My best allies are the guys who are teaching the other classes, because when they come in to my class, they just come from physics and math, I just have to breathe and it's better. Anyways, ok, so....
Arne Hessenbruch: So, why chemistry, why did you choose chemistry?
Donald Sadoway: I don't know, I guess back in summer around high school, I mean I enjoyed science, I liked math, physics, chemistry, but something about the chemistry was appealing to me. I think partly because, when I think about it more, I think it has to do with the, I've always wanted to be at the interface between theory and practice, and I always felt that chemistry, for me, was the subject that helped me position myself at that interface. I always wanted to be not a chemical engineer, I always bristled at the word engineer. But I didn't want to be a scientist, I wanted to be someone at that interface, and oddly enough at the University of Toronto, the school of engineering is called the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, and I read that, and said, "That's it! Applied science." Science and application, science in service of humanity. Even Newton believed this. You know, this "science for science's sake", this is a creation of recent. And people are rather proud of it, you know, that "We're scientists, you know we're not soil". You know, you exist only but for the taxpayer. Unless you want to return to the premodern model when the only people who were scientists were noblemen because they were landed gentry, they used their own funds. But you want the public to pay for your dillettantism, and I'm sorry, solve real problems! Science in service of humanity. And I felt that chemistry was good for that.
Arne Hessenbruch: So when you got the position here, it was in MSE, which is, exactly this, that it spans applied and pure, making the two terms nonsensical.
Donald Sadoway: Well see, this is why, so when I went to the University of Toronto I thought I would be in the chemical engineering department doing applied chemistry. And, fortunately, I was in an honors program called Engineering Science, which was actually modeled on MIT. And the first two years were general, very rigorous, a lot of math, but the interesting thing is that in Engineering Science, the math was taught by the mathematicians in the Math department, the physics was taught by the physicists in the Physics department, whereas the regular engineering had Math for Engineers, Physics for Engineers, and so on. And so I get this very rigorous background, but I had to take some chemistry, and it was taught by a chemical engineer, not by the Chemistry department. I hated it. Chemical engineering, this is 1968, was very much still petroleum. I didn't like organic chemistry, and I had no desire to learn how to push liquids through pipes. So I decided, but I loved chemistry, and then I learned about, what was at that time metallurgy, which was basically high temperature physical chemistry. So I went into it for that reason, but it was the materials science option of engineering science. I went in there thinking I was doing chemical metallurgy and before I knew it I was exposed to this entire world of metals, ceramics, and so on.
Arne Hessenbruch: But it wasn't called materials science was it?
Donald Sadoway: It was the metallurgy department at the University of Toronto but there was this program called materials science, the materials science option, so materials science was just emerging. Wulff and company had just written that four volume series in the mid-60s [Structure and Property of Materials, NY:Wiley, 1964-1966]. And I remember reading that, that's why I came to MIT by the way. I could have gone anywhere in the NATO Alliance, so why did I come here? Because I read the Wulff series, which is the power of the written word. You see I said, "This is where the field was born! It's where the disparate disciplines of metallurgy and ceramics ..." then came polymers and semiconductors later, but it was really, taking this metallurgists always needed to contain the liquid metal in some brickwork, ok, so the metallurgists always needed to know some ceramics. Very practical. What happened was that these people were starting to recognize that there was a common set of principles that spanned different materials classes. Up until then there was this sort of, even within metallurgy, metallurgy was balkanized, you had ferrous metallurgy and non-ferrous mettalurgies though there was some big new set of rules when you moved from iron to aluminum, I mean you both have C-C metals, I mean come on! How different could they be? These are differences without distinction, but at that time they seemed so important. And now from a distance, they're laughable, but at the time that was the mindset. And then here they were actually saying, "No, there's a common set of principles that describes the relationship between the behavior of the material and it's atomistic structure." And it doesn't matter if its a FCC metal or if it's a FCC ceramic, what the difference is is in the bonding, which then takes it back to the chemical origins of everything. So I was in my element, I said, "This is great!", and then when I'm teaching this class it's great because the chemist says that the chemical properties are a function of the electronic structure, so the electronic structure dictates chemical behavior. But that's the chemical behavior of an individual atom. What I'm saying is that the assemblies of atoms, in other words, atomic structure, the structure of stuff, of solids, is also dictated by the atomistic structure. So there's this paradigm that structure dictates properties and chemical identity is secondary. It's just so, so you sat here just watching this field kind of mature, and now we've got polymers and polymers are macromolecules, they observe the same thing, and now we have the life sciences. So when we teach about protein folding it's an extension of the stuff I do the first day with simple Bohr modeling, one electron running around hydrogen. Because once you establish this paradigm, it's really very powerful and very general.
Arne Hessenbruch: One of the strands I would like to get it is the teaching of it, because from the literature you've also been involved in the changing of the curriculums to fit what's right, it would be very interesting to hear more about that.
Donald Sadoway: Well it's been hard, because what we're trying to do is to take these balkanized dominions and get people to make the connections. You know people get set in their ways. Most people my age, they want to take that old set of notes and just run them until they're retired, so I don't like that, I get bored, I get bored even teaching that same class, the same lecture each year so sometimes I'll just start with a clean sheet of paper, and say, "How are we going to put this stuff across?" Sometimes it's fantastic, and other times I go, "You know what? I should have left it the way it was last year. I actually achieved something that was reasonably close to ideal". So what do you do? Well it takes leadership, ultimately, because you see, one of the problems of the field is that because it's so good at solving problems in technology, research has been very prominent in materials science and engineering. As a result, academics in materials science and engineering, this is my opinion, you might get some other opinions, but I think I'm right, and that is that academics have been so consumed with the research function that the energy left for curricular revision just isn't there. And it's gotten worse over time because it's gotten harder to get money over time. And the reason it's harder to get money is not that there isn't enough money around, it's that there are more people doing research. 25 years ago when I went to a review, a contractor review, there'd be MIT, there'd be Berkeley, Northwestern, the top tier research universities were there. And that was it. Now you go to a review you see people doing research in second and third tier schools. Now this may sound elitist, and it is, but the fact of the matter is, there are too many people doing research. We would be better off if we had, you know, does every degree granting institute have to have a post graduate program? You know, we should think about the quality, because spending that money means we're making choices, and there are certain problems that aren't being solved because we're being busy about equitable distribution because Idaho has two senators just because Massachusetts has two senators. And that's what's going on. So what's the consequence for curricular reform? It means when I started here as an unseasoned assistant professor, my proposals were a horror. When I think about the ideas I had - and yet I got funded! I had a 50-50 chance of getting funded. Some of them came back critically attacked, I read the reviews, made the necessary changes, sent them in, I got money, I had good graduate students, and the research proceeded. What was my reporting requirements? Once a year I wrote a one or two page letter to the NSF, it was fine. What is it like today? Oh and by the way, the grants were multi-year grants. Three years was typical, four or five was not unusual. Today - and it was all strictly between the university and the agency. Today, in one of the major areas I'm active in, which is the environmentally sound production of metals, the agencies at the Department of Energy, office of industrial technology, requires industrial cost share. That means the industry has to put up a huge amount of money in supporting my research. The industry doesn't feel like doing that either, because the balance sheet doesn't look good, or perhaps the intellectual property rights are of concern. They say no, I don't get the money. Even when I do get the money, one year. I can't do a PhD in one year. So I spend huge amounts of time that I used to not have to worry about spending in pursuit of money, getting money, hanging onto money, and the reporting requirements. I get a letter from Nasa, I have a project to make oxygen on the Moon and on Mars. Exotic stuff. But it paves the way for space exploration, space colonization. How are you going to make oxygen on the Moon? Well, electrochemically, that's how you do it! So, I get this money, I ask for a $125,000, they offer me $90,000, oh, but the first year, we can only offer you $40,000. Okay, so you're getting pennies on the dollar, compared to what you asked for. So what am not going to do now? So all kinds of things get jettisoned. Now, I've no sooner got the money in April, I get a letter, "We're having a three day conference in Huntsville, Alabama, and you're expected to be there. We want your abstract, we want your camera ready copy of the manuscript, and so on and so forth." So now, I've just been given $40,000 when I asked for $125,000, I've just got the money, I haven't gotten the students started, they want me to spend three days of my life in Huntsville, Alabama in the middle of June. Now, OK, you say "All right, fine, well they gave you some money". Well if I had four or five grants from different agencies, and each agency is putting on a two or three day contract review and you're expected to sit there the whole time, well, you know, you can imagine what doesn't get done. And I'll tell you what doesn't get done. It's the curricular revision.
Donald Sadoway: And that's why you're seeing the contrast, in my opinion between the excitement of the field, it's never been more exciting, because we have the bio coming in, we have the nanotechnology, that's all in the heart of materials science, even the general public knows the word nanotechnology, alright? And you can pair that to the moribund condition of materials curriculum. And you go, " What is going on here?" I'll tell you what's going on here. People are spent in their research and there's nothing left. This is the poor orphan child that's not getting any attention. So, we're addressing it, and it's really exciting, the stuff that we've got in play right now two years from now, it's going to change the world. I mean it. I've been here 25 years, what we're doing right now here. It's unbelievable. Why? The conditions are right. We've got pushes and pulls, we've got resources, and we've got some young people that are idealistic enough, well, young people are always idealistic enough but they're idealistic enough, and they've got the support of the department head, and he's asked me to spearhead this effort, and I'm at a point in my career where I really want to do this, and I think that people are willing to follow, if there's some leadership. And it's going to be really, really exciting. Now, it's both form and content, what the engineering program is going to look like. It's very different. Yeah, so ok, what is different? Well, the form. We're looking at re-designing the curriculum in totum. So we've asked ourselves, "Well, what do the students bring in after their freshman year and what do we want them to know when they exit?" Because knowledge continues to expand, but the residence time is constant. How are we going to cover more material? By talking more quickly, by assigning more homework? No! It's by reducing it. It's by figuring out what the essentials are, what are the unifying principles, and then say it once, and apply it, and get a multiplier factor operative, instead of saying, "Ok, we're teaching this, we're teaching this, we're teaching this, and there's all this other stuff and we're running out of time!" Well, why don't we find what the central elements are here, extract them, teach them this, give them the multiple examples, and turn the page. And that's what we're doing.
Arne Hessenbruch: Is that not what you were doing also in the 70s and 80s?
Donald Sadoway: At a different level. At a different level.
Arne Hessenbruch: There was ceramics, polymers, and metals and so on.
Donald Sadoway: So we did that to a certain extent, only in the very base courses. We talk about structure, we talk about thermodynamics, but then you do get on to the upper level classes. There's still ceramics processing, polymer processing... So but even that, there's a thermo track, there's a structure track, there's a laboratory class. What I did was I put a swath across the board, I put time as the horizontal axis, and I said, "OK, I got them under 36 hours a week. What do I want them to know? Thermal structure and some laboratory". And some math. Actually I've got a powerpoint presentation that I could give you. [We might put that up on this site, but it would only be accessible with Internet Explorer..] So basically I said, OK, here's time like this, and this is one semester, so there's four tracks. So this is their humanities and social sciences. So that's off limits. So now what we have here, let's call this, this is thermal, this is structure, and this is math. First thing I did was say, we take the math back, we're not going to send them to the math department, because it's a different culture there and I don't want to, you know, run them down. They are just not learning what we need them, what we need them to have. So, the first thing I did, was say, "well, what do they have to know about thermodynamics, what do they have to know about structure, and what is the math that they need to support this?" We believe that they learn by doing, so what we did then is we said, "All right, porous boundaries." So, cross-talk, these people are teaching in tandem. They plan in tandem, they teach in tandem. They go for four weeks, and they stop. And then what happens? Two weeks of intensive lab. And then they go again, four weeks, two weeks of intensive lab, and this lab unifies all this intensive material. And in this lab you learn, in addition to teamwork, the professional skills, the communications, etc. And so, in doing so, what we've got now, we just had a meeting yesterday, it's really exciting what we're doing this first semester. So you have a number of topics here, and these topics actually link, so something that's said over here resonates with something that's said over here. What we were doing before in the 70s and 80s was taking this thermo and making sure that this thermo was no longer metallurgical thermodynamics but it was a thermodynamics of metals, ceramics, polymers. So we've already got that, we've got the materials integration there, but now we want to say, "How does thermodynamics inform structure? How does structure inform thermodynamics?" And what is the necessary math that you need in order to explain this? So you learn math in order to explain what's going on in thermo and structure, but, by seeing the examples of how the math is used in thermo and structure, you have a visceral understanding of the math. So, the bottom line here is, we say high sticking coefficient, that the students remember, that the students come out with an empowered understanding, the capability of solving real problems. Now the lab, certain principles are only taught here, we didn't wait for the enunciation of the three laws of thermodynamics and then go on to discover fire. Fire existed before even thermodynamics. So there's certain things that maybe should be first experienced in the lab and then subsequently taught. And so this is sort of the template behind it, and all sorts of other movements in and out. So this is, by the way, you have a lecture, and then a recitation day, and the lectures and recitations. You can imagine every day, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, the entire morning is thermo, structure, math. On Tuesday, it's three hours of recitation. But it's not thermo recitation, structure recitation, math recitation, it's a three hour workshop. And this subject matter is criss-crossing like this. And I call this 'just in time learning'. You don't tell them to learn some thermo and then you don't use it for two and a half years, and then later on a guy starts teaching metallurgical processing, and, as you may remember from your sophomore year, and they're all going "no, we don't remember". Well, if they need to know it, they're going to learn it here, and they're going to apply it the next day here. And we've reorganized the set of subjects, we've basically made a concept map, and said, "What are the topics that they need to be conversant with? And what's a sensible order of presentation?" Forget about the textbooks, forget about everything. At one of our pivotal meetings, one of my colleagues Eugene Fitzgerald, he said, "You know, I really like this. What we have to do though,..." I had previously said that "We have the capacity in this room to make this happen. I don't know that we have the result. I'll be honest with you." And people were very upset when they said, "Don't patronize us, we realize the constraints" So Gene says, "What every one of us has to be prepared to do is pick up in the left hand the sheet of notes with which we teach today, in the right hand a bic lighter, and on the count of three, ignite." Because unless, if at the end of the day, what we're doing is taking my set of notes and only I'm going to rearrange the pages, we're not reaching. And somebody asked me, what about textbooks? I said it axiomatically, if there's a textbook for what we have at the end of this exercise, we're not reaching. The textbooks are the books that will be written by the people in this room in support of this class. And so, but, where is it going to go next? They don't know this yet. OK, this is what I'm doing next in 3.091 [3.091 is the MIT-internal code for the course called Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry]. See this? That's where it's going next. This wall [the separation with humanities] comes down. So what I want to do in 3.091 this fall is, I already met with Diana Henderson from the literature department. I said, can we develop a parallel curriculum with 3.091? And I'll give it an extra three units for the students who want to take it. I'll call it 3.091L, you can sign up for it. We'll develop a parallel set of readings, literature, literature. So that when you're studying, in the early part they'll say, take Copenhagen, with Michael Frayn. So just study that play. But when a colleague from the literature department you know to talk about the dramatic devices, and then given to the ethical questions of you know, these guys who developed the bomb, and later on, are staunchest antinuclear activists. And so maybe someone should point the finger back and say we're very charmed that you're so anti-nuclear and you don't believe in nuclear deterrents, but you know, in 1941 you were gung ho. So let's examine the morality of all of this, and what other technologies are those kids in this room ready to develop? And find the literary works that talk about science, morality, and so on, and put those in parallel. So that's next. And also, art and music. You know I'm already doing the music and so on, but let's get the art going. So, sometimes it's thematically linked, and before they know it they're learning culture and they don't even feel the pain. You see? Well that's the way education should be. I want people racing to that lecture hall. Not looking at their watches and saying, "I don't know, well, you take the notes for me." It's, and the thing my colleagues are finding is, that this is exciting to teach. What we're teaching right now, it's funny. You have people hating to teach, and students hating to learn. And it's all based on one theme. Content. And that's something even the upper administration here fails to appreciate enough. They're spending a lot of money on changing the form, changing the mode of delivery, getting new facilities, more computer graphics, more interactive... this Teele room with the laptop experiments in electricity and magnetism. All very nice. Misses the point completely. You know if you take a lousy script, and take a great actor, the performance is a lousy performance. You take a great script, and you take a mediocre actor, your liable at the end to come up with a great actor. Okay? Script is everything. It's not special effects. And we spend a lot of money on special effects here, and I'm saying, "Let's spend money on script". And that's what we're doing, we're spending money on script. So this is the difference. In the past, we were doing this, but integrating the different materials classes. But now what we're doing is this. So another example, later on in the transport phenomena classes, instead of Burt Stewart and light transfer, heat transfer, momentum transfer, you know, basically, 1950s chemical engineering but with some materials examples, that's what we have right now. I'm saying, "Why do we teach transport phenomena? Just to torment people, with a lot of math, people don't like it very much, and so on." The reason we teach transport phenomena is because it is absolutely essential in process design. Well, what do you really need to know in order to design a new process? Well, you have to understand heat transfer, mass transfer, and all of the inputs and outputs, but what else do we have to know in the modern world? The modern world, you have to be aware of the environmental impacts of the process. Because in the end, if you make a product that's worth a dollar, and it costs you two dollars to mitigate the pollution that you generate, you're out of business. To say nothing, you may be in prison. What about economics? Can our students even read a balance sheet? No, they know nothing about it. And yet every first fledgling engineer when he gets into a company, he's going to be given a budget for a project. He's going to be told, design this and you have to bring it in on budget, or the product has to cost no more than this. It's not in our curriculum. So, that whole transport thing is now two slots wide, not one, and it includes laboratory, and it includes transport phenomena, environmental aspects, which means such things as, life cycle analysis, embedded there. Not a separate subject over here called "Life Cycle Analysis". When you're teaching transport, you teach them about life cycle because all of this is subordinated to the larger question which is process design. So these are the kinds of things that are in the curriculum, but ultimately it all rests on the sophomore year, because that's when they get off either to a good start or to a bad start. And this start is very very different, I assure you, when this is done, it's going to be it's going to be a joy to teach. I told them, make it a class you wish you could have taken when you were a sophomore. That's your operative.
Arne Hessenbruch: I understand the difference between this, and let's say, what you wrote in this book [referring to M.C. Flemings and D.R. Sadoway, "Approaches to an Integrated Undergraduate Education in Materials Science and Engineering," Frontiers in Materials Education, Mat. Res. Soc. Symp. Proc., Vol. 66, edited by L.W. Hobbs and G.L. Liedl, MRS: Pittsburgh, PA, 1986, pp. 3-11], but there are also certain similarities, the integrative approach, and the crossing of the boundaries, and if we look back, the change of curriculum with this was slow and painful enough. Could you sort of pinpoint, actually could you, would it be possible for you to say something, and pinpoint it in time, what it was like say in 1980, 1990, and now, to sort of contrast it. That might also give some indication of the difficulties you will have in implementing this.
Donald Sadoway: Okay, so, in the 80s the obstacle was that we had very good people who were specialists. I mean: They're products of their own upbringing, and their educations were very materials specific. So we had metallurgists here who were fearful about the shifting sands, you know when metallurgy disappeared from the name of the department, all kinds of alumni were phoning in and threatening not to support anymore, and so on, and it's very symbolic. Symbolism is important. That's the way it was. And when Walter Owen, who was the Department head who hired me, he was Department head until 1982. He was the one who dragged, kicking and screaming, polymers into the department. No one had been able to integrate polymers before into a department that was dominantly metallurgy. Walter did it. And the early attempts failed, we couldn't get the right people, and so on. But he forced it. This is what I'm saying. Leadership does not consist of going into a room and saying, "Tell me what your will is. Let me be the sensor. I will determine what people want to do here and I will then harness all that energy and move forward". It takes someone with vision to say, "You guys are worried about getting your research dollars, and getting your graduate students through, and teaching classes today. I have to be worried about where will this department be a generation from now." That is the role of the department head. And then he's got to come back and persuade them. And to the extent that he's successful, it will make his job easier but ultimately he will meet with resistance. We know this. You just say, "We've got it. We hear your objections This is what we're doing." Who's coming? Because in the end, what you're teaching now is going to be obliterated, so you have two choices, either cling to what you're doing now and be a spectator at the development of the future, or grudgingly come over and help shape the future. Which is it? You have to, almost say it in those words. And it was very tough in those days. But the way they were able to buy it was to have this balkanized top end, so the junior and senior years were still metals polymers, ceramics, semiconductors, but we had at least the semblance of materials thermodynamics. Materials structure, materials characterization laboratory. So that was, that was a step. And it was hard because whoever got to teach that thermodynamics class, there was two of them, there was a 300 thermal and 301 which was physical chemistry, that person would have historically been a ceramist or a metallurgist or whatever, and you could see as the custody of the class shifted, there would be, you know, to differing extents, a relaxation back into the comfort zone of the individual teaching. Very few of us were actually willing to be a) to make the investment and time to learn, so I came as a metallurgist, I had to learn ceramics, I had to learn semiconductors, learn polymers, and I had to now learn biochemistry, and so on. But I love it, I'm learning. Other people, they don't want to do that. They want to spend their time on their research. And secondly, you have to be willing to take the risk. Because when you do this you know you're going to step in the mud occasionally. You're going to get in over your head. I mean, there were times when I was teaching 3.091, and saying "Oh man, I don't think I understand this"... And there's some kid in the room, or some visiting fireman and the hand goes up and says, "I don't think that's the way it is" And I say "Yeah, you're probably right". You know you made a fool out of yourself in front of 450 freshmen. So a lot of people aren't prepared to do that. So that's what it's like in the early 80s. By the 90s, there was no curricular reform. Nothing. It was dead. Because I think what happened was when the Berlin wall came down and the large amount of defense spending started to dry up, I think people got really scared about hanging onto research money. Because unfortunately the upper administration here believes that the reputation of the place is based on it's research accomplishments. You know we hear that, we feel that. The reward structure's entirely based upon research accomplishment. And as research dollars got harder to grab and to hold on to, I think that the amount of time people were putting into undergraduate education was just drying up as well. Now I mean, if I had a magic want, and I wanted to make this place much more fertile for education reform, instead of giving people money for educational projects, what I would do is give everybody, pick a number. A third of a million, half a million dollars a year, for unfettered research funding. And tell them, you can have this on one condition. You're forbidden to write a research proposal. You see? I know if you give them half a million then they can say, "Well I can make one and a half million and I'm still going to write proposals to DARPA and DOE and ONR and so on". So if you agree to take this money, there's two things that come: one, you are forbidden to write research proposals, which then automatically limits the size of research groups, which means that the graduate students who work for them will then have a rich experience, because the guy can't take on 25 students. Number 2: so now you have extra time, let's work on the undergraduate program, and now he's not going to say "I'm too busy, I have to go, I have to defend my research grant, I have to go to Washington. I have to go to Huntsville, and so on." Now, you know, you don't write proposals, the only thing you ever write is, you write papers. And you write them with your students. That's, to me, that would be, even, see? That's not what they're doing. Instead they're offering me, if I would write a proposal, they'll give me $10,000 so I can get some DARPA money to develop some curricular module. Don't they understand? It's the mere act of writing the god-damn proposal that's consuming the time that some pinhead's going to review it and say, "Well I don't think on page 60 goes into enough detail." That's not going to happen, I've told them point blank. So that's the way it was in the 90s, and what's happened now.
Arne Hessenbruch: Let me ask you before you go on to that; if I remember correctly, the curriculum at Harvard - I'm thinking of people like Henry Ehrenreich and Charlie Lieber - have been teaching materials science, and in 96 and 98 I think they began to introduce bio, so there was a distinct change in the curriculum, and it was basically a change that involved giving some hours to someone who could teach bio. There was no sense of an integrative approach it was more put a person out, then put another person in. Nothing similar to that happened here?
Donald Sadoway: No. No, in 3.091 I have four lectures of biochemistry, I do it all. I totally believe in, you know, because for me it was really good to do it that way because I didn't know the molecular biology. What biology I knew was the old, name the various species and dissect the frog and all this stuff, ok. So I had to come at this with the mentality of my students, it was excellent, excellent. Because it was fresh in my mind, what the hurdles are going to be, in attacking this material, and I read the conventional books, I have all these chemistry books, and I started looking at the biochemistry chapter in the chemistry text, the general chemistry text. And most of those chapters were horrible, very difficult. It's because I bet they were written by the biochemistry specialist who was brought in to drop these chapters in between these two covers. So I looked at the book and said, where is the overarching theme here? Where are the principles that apply equally to here, but with some variation? And I found them. And then, I learned the stuff, and then it's seamless! When we get to biochemistry it's just, it's just more chemistry, and it's very simple. I mean, the way, my entry point for biochemistry, it comes from polymers. So first I teach them about simple structures. Discrete atoms. Either metallic crystals or crystals of things like methane if you solidify methane you end up with a simple cubic crystal structure but at each lattice point you have five atoms, carbon plus four hydrogens, carbon plus four hydrogens. But if you look at a distance you have all of those arranged in a cubic structure. So there's some, you know, symmetry there. And then you go to sodium chloride, and again, you have symmetry. And then you go to polymers, macromolecules, okay, polymerides. Now you've got this long chain, and you've got these side groups, and you teach them cross-linking, you teach them about entanglement and why some polymers are very strong and brittle, and other polymers are deformable, they're plastic, and so on. And then you teach them what a peptide bond is, and you say, Mother Nature's a polymer chemist, and now you're making proteins. And what is the protein structure? You go back to the polymer structure and the parallels are there. And how would you characterize this? Well what you did to characterize polymers, polyethelyne, and so on, I mean, you show them nylon-66, and you show them protein, and you realize that, you know, you and I are made of something that isn't a hell of a lot different from some of the clothing that we're wearing. And the lights go on and the jump is miniscule. But I couldn't have got there if I called a colleague and said, "Hey listen, I'm going to budget four lectures. Would you come in and do a little stint on biochemistry?" There would have been a double disconnect. First of all their approach is different, so there would have been whiplash from what they've learned, what the students have learned, up until now and what the colleague is bringing, and then there's also all these whiplashes associated when you just change voices. I mean if I even gave somebody else my script to go in there the students are disoriented, they don't like it. If I travel, I have to ask a colleague to give a lecture, I give them the notes, I give them the video tapes, everything, I say, "Go in there and be me." I still get complaints. So I think it was really important that the integration occur via the appropriation of that new material. And I grew from it. And plus now I see connections all over the curriculum to the bio. Because the guy coming in, he's not going to take the other 30 lectures just so that his four would be in continuity with mine. What I'm doing here, by the way, these guys are going to sit together. We're actually going to have this thing auditioned. And, get this, this has never been done before, one of my colleagues proposes, he says, what we do is, the first time this class is offered, is going to be before the first time it's offered. So, if this is going to launch fall of 2003, in spring 2003 or summer 2003, these three guys are going to teach this set of lectures, and we're going to pay graduate students, what have you, to be students in the lecture. And we're going to give the feedback, this will accomplish two things, you see, they're all going to have to have their lectures ready, so it doesn't come Labor Day 2003 and they're all looking at each other, going, I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do but I haven't quite got my lecture ready for tomorrow morning, and... so that will all be done, and secondly, the degree of cross talk will be maximized because you'll have other observers who will say, I may sit in on those and say, you know, "This is really good, but not to criticize but you guys have done a great job but I see even other connections here". This is serious, this is really, really serious.
Arne Hessenbruch: I'll volunteer for that...
Donald Sadoway: Oh, I think it'd be great.
Arne Hessenbruch: That's great, okay. So the curriculum, oh, nano, perhaps. Nano, also crept into the curriculum at Harvard in from the mid 90s onwards, and here?
Donald Sadoway: It's there insofar as we already talked about length scale, so I mean, but I realize that maybe we should actually put a label on it and say, but see for me, the nano is really what's the difference between macro and micro in nano, it's just length scale. But to the extent that, obviously because Lieber's personal research is in nanotechnology, I think he feels sort of, a need, to sort of say "This is the really cool stuff that's going on in nanotechnology". And I can see why you might want to do it just in order to sustain interest, but pedagogically speaking, you know, in a general chemistry class unless you're actually going to start talking about the differences between bulk chemistry and surface chemistry, which I don't think the students are ready for, it's going to be more of a "Gee Whiz, this is the kind of neat stuff that's going on in nanotechnology." So I haven't done that, because I think pedagogically, they can't.... See, really to get down to nanotechnology and explain why nano is special, you really have to understand quantum mechanics, because now what you're doing is the length scale of the material is on the order of the characteristic length of the quantum effect. But they're not studying quantum mechanics, so what am I going to do? I mean, I can say those words, make them write them down, commit them to memory, but they don't know what I'm talking about, so if I'm making some sense, to really give them a visceral understanding of the basics for nanotechnology they have to first take quantum mechanics, and this is first year general chemistry. So I feel a little bit squeamish, you know, pulling up something and saying, "This is really cool, this is nanotechnology, and we're doing it in materials science." By the way, when I teach this class I never, ever make reference to course three and what's going on in a way that suggests that I'm hinting that they should major in materials science, or that 3.091 is in any way a commercial for materials science. I do quite the opposite. I talk about chemistry, I talk about applied chemistry, but I never turn this, because I think that would be so demeaning. Some of my colleagues were shocked, when I first took over the class, first thing I did was say, "I'm going to choose a different text." Gus Whit, who was my predecessor, was using a set of notes he had developed plus a materials science text. And I said, "No, I'm going to take a chemistry text." And Bob Wilson said, "What are you doing, the people are going to say, what's the difference?" Because I want the students to know that I'm teaching them chemistry, that I'm bringing something in, I'm bringing in an engineering perspective, a perspective beyond the technical, and also a materials perspective because it is Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, but we're not going to cover everything in the book. At the end of the day I want them to have a book that if later on, if we need to learn something about, I don't know, transition metal chemistry, they've got a book. To get that materials science text, it's often a different direction. So I've always tried to say, I want this to be a really good chemistry class with a materials application flavor.
Arne Hessenbruch: All right, let's go back to, you started off in chemistry, and then why electrochemistry?
Donald Sadoway: Oh, that was purely accidental. That, see, this is, you asked me earlier about key people, when I was in the University of Toronto, I was very interested in chemical processing of metals, it was chemical metallurgy in those days. There was a person there who taught thermodynamics, and he happened to be working in high temperature physical chemistry and electrochemistry. And I mean, I took a class from him, and I ended up doing my PhD from him. So, I mean, who knows, if the person who had the highest impact on me had been in defects in solids, maybe today I would be studying defects in solids. It really came down to a human thing, I mean, I had general interest in this area, but....
Arne Hessenbruch: Environmentalism is clearly a concern to you. Where does that come from?
Donald Sadoway: Mm... Where does it fit in? Because, historically, well, 25 years ago, I would have been one of these people that was contemptuous of tree huggers and all of this other stuff, but you know, along the way I grew up and realized there are consequences to the unabated disposal of chemical wastes. I mean, and so I had a general concern about sustainability because I have children and presumably there will be issues for them and you think about the future, as you get older you start thinking, when you're young, a) you're going to live forever; b) the world is an infinite resource and an infinite sewer. Okay? No one's going to miss my wrapper on the ground. And then eventually you start to lead an examined life, and say, "Well, if everybody threw their wrapper on the ground then we'd be surrounded by mountains of filth." So, you know, no, put the wrapper away, or better yet, recycle the wrapper, and so on. So, if you want to start thinking about environmental matters, you start asking, well, "What are the priorities?" And pretty soon you've discovered that, first of all, pollution is chemical injury to the environment. And the remedy is a chemical remedy. So it's chemistry again. Well, who are the big polluters? Well, where's the tonnage? The tonnage is in steel, it's in aluminum, it's right in chemical metallurgy, which is where I was working. So it was very easy for me to say, "Jesus, we're making the most mess." So we'd better start, going after the semiconductor industry, you know when IBM says it's environmentally sound, that's great, it's a good corporate example. But the amount of pollution that IBM makes in comparison to the US steel industry is, you know, a pittance. So we've got to get the steel industry to make steel in an environmentally sound manner. Make aluminum in an environmentally sound manner, then we'll go after the, you know, the little stuff. And so again, I was uniquely positioned, I had studied chemical metallurgy, I knew how to make a mess, so could I take my mind, and figure out either, in the first instance, how to clean up the mess, and in parallel, try to develop processes that get us cheap metal in a way that doesn't damage the environment or does so minimally. Doesn't hurt the workers or if it does so that the risk is minimal, and essentially chemical metallurgy is now in a renaissance.
Arne Hessenbruch: Can you put a chronology on this for yourself, when you became interested?
Donald Sadoway: Yes, late 80s.
Arne Hessenbruch: Any particular reason why it was then?
Donald Sadoway: Yes. In the early 80s, no, mid 80s, I was involved in some collaborative research to try to develop a material that would replace the consumable carbon anode in the aluminum cell. The aluminum is made by molten salt electrolysis. So I already had some DOE money to study speciation in the melts. And the driving force at that time was to try to make the process more energy efficient. Aluminum consumes huge amounts of electrical energy in it's production. And there was concern that the American aluminum industry was consuming at that time 2% of the total generated electric power. Could we reduce the energy consumption? And one of the places people were looking was to get rid of the carbon anode. So I did some materials research here with a colleague over in ceramics because the thought was that if it wasn't going to be carbon it would be some electronically conductive ceramic. By the late 80s energy prices kept falling during the Reagan presidency, and so the unimaginable became real. The price of energy fell over the course of the 80s. But our environmental awareness rose and by the end of the 80s the primary driving force in search of an inert anode was not to reduce energy consumption, but was to get the carbon out of the cell, because with the carbon anode we're making CO2, the carbon plant was making all sorts of volatile organics, and then came the discovery of per-fluoro carbons, PFCs, which come out of the Hall cell. And the only way to avoid PFCs is to get the carbon out of the cell. You can't make per-fluoro carbons without carbon. I was a proponent of carbon free anodes, and all of a sudden I'm sitting there going, a radical electochemistry could then change the picture completely. All of a sudden lights came on. It takes a half a ton of carbon to make a ton of steel. Takes a half a pound of carbon to make a pound of aluminum. Carbon is pervasive in the metals extraction industry. And that's where all the pollution comes from, that's where all the waste comes from. So I said, okay, so I dedicate my research now, reorient it to elimination of carbon. See? So now I have this vision of the 21st century. By mid-century, we will not burn carbon to make electricity. We will figure out how to deal with the waste products of fission, or we'll figure out how to make fusion work. So, once you have carbon free electricity, all, all industrial chemistry becomes industrial electrochemistry. Because the electron is a clean reducing agent. You know, you can have pure carbon, you can have dirty carbon. You can have pure aluminum oxide, or impure aluminum oxide. There's only one category of electron. It is pure. The electron has no impurities. This is an epiphany for me. You know once you realize the electron is only pure. So now, we have only industrial electrochemistry. Furthermore, no halogens. So no flourine, no chlorine, no carbon. So what are you left with? Oxides. So the blue sky for me is you take metal found in the ground as oxide, you process it as a molten oxide electrochemically, you make metal at the cathode and you make oxygen at the anode. Now that's green chemistry, that's long term sustainable. Horrible materials problems. So we'd better solve them. And I'm not waiting for carbon free electrons. They'll be there. I want to have this technology ready. And then, next epiphany comes mid-90s. I was asked to co-teach a little tiny segment of a technology policy class.
Arne Hessenbruch: Sorry, can I, before you go to the second epiphany, who, what immediate allies did you have and what immediate opponents did you have with the first epiphany?
Donald Sadoway: Well in the late 80s the aluminum industry was really still interested in finding an inert anode to some extent, so that was ok. But when I started generalizing it, of course everybody who had a vested interest in the metals industry just laughed at it, just said, well steel is abundant, carbon is abundant, the glass furnace makes tons of metal, this is impractical, electric power costs... Well of course by today's economics it has to be impractical because if it were practical you wouldn't be doing what you're doing now. So please don't tell me that I discovered something that the entire world steel industry, if they knew about it, would embrace on the basis of the economics. That's not what I'm saying. But if in Europe they decide that there will be a carbon tax of $200 a ton, well, that doubles the price of steel instantly. Well all of a sudden this isn't such a crazy idea. So by the economics of today it is crazy. So I mean there was that kind of opposition, it's the usual, oh, that's impractical, oh the temperature's too high, oh there's this, oh there's that.
Arne Hessenbruch: And allies? Who are the allies?
Donald Sadoway: Oh just people that maybe didn't fully understand it, but just said, "We like radical innovation, just pursue it." In some senses I was comfortable enough in my self image that I wasn't looking, maybe there's almost a comfort in being sort of the outsider. You know, you get to a point where you feel as if maybe this sounds a little too arrogant, but I almost feel as if there's a whole bunch of people in this field, then I should really move on. But then I'm going to contradict myself when I talk about the next epiphany. All right, so the next one was where I was teaching this technology policy class. It was in 93 or 94, and it was with Richard DeNeufville here. And Richard Tabors, and David Marx, were in TPP [Technology and Policy Program]. And it was one of these teamwork classes, with 32 students and 4 teams of 8, and they go into role playing and so on, and they have to solve this problem. This involves technology and policy. Basically they come up with policies that move people in the right direction. And the exercise that year was air quality in the Los Angeles basin. The reason they asked me as that, at the outset, they figured that one of the proposed solutions would be to come along with some car regulations to require the sale of electric vehicles, so since electric vehicles have batteries, I'm an electrochemist, so I can give some lectures on batteries, and also while I'm at it, these electric cars will probably be aluminum intensive, and can I show the trade off in the primary extraction of aluminum versus the primary extraction of steel. What are the smelter outputs? If we switch to aluminum and it's 10 times more polluting than the smelter then what do we gain? So okay, fine. I was at a point where I was looking for something interesting to do. Pedagogically, things hadn't really engaged here, and so I taught this class, I had to do some research, I didn't know batteries. I mean, there was no one doing battery research at MIT. Nobody. Why? Because it wasn't viewed as sexy enough. Batteries is 19th century, it's not bio-tech. It's not nano, it's not, pick whatever you want. It's not semiconductors, it's not opto-electronics. It's just batteries. So I teach this class, and I learn about batteries, and I go, Christ, electric cars are ready! Oh, and part of the preparation of that class, DeNeufville got us invitations to go out to Ford. And we were able to visit their research on electric vehicles and drive the Ecostar which was running these sodium sulfur batteries which was a molten solid battery, so I went, "I could do this! I could get involved in this!" So it was, this was now curious, because I grew up in Oshawa, which is the Detroit of Canada, so I'd always been near car culture.
So anyways, so I said, "So this has all of the elements, it's got cars, it's got the whole business of transportation, mobility, but environmental sustainability, you know tailpipe emissions. And then, which I didn't really appreciate until later, it's got the whole business of independence. Which is, you know, an all-electric fleet would rid us of a dependence on imported petroleum, which then makes your foreign policy options much less constrained. So I eventually became very militant and said, "I'm doing this research because I want to see the end of the oil, the petroleum industry, and the internal combustion engine." I don't care so much about the oil industry. If we destroy the internal combustion engine they will litter anyways. And I believe it. So the only thing missing right now is a battery that will take that car 400 miles on a charge. Everything else is there. I've since driven the Ford Ecostar, the Selectria, and two years ago I got to drive the EB1. The EB1 is a joy, it's fantastic. But the battery will only take it 60 miles. So after I taught that class, I said, "Dammit, you're an electrochemist." "What's needed here?" And I reasoned that there's only one technology that could possible get us 200 watt-hours a kilogram. And that's solid polymer battery. But I'm not a polymer scientist. Heaven forbid, I'm going to have to collaborate. So I teamed up with Anne Mayes, who is a polymer physicist, and I said "Look, here's the problem, can we come up with a material that will give us the lithium ion conduction that we need?" And we started to work together. And that was around 94-95 time frame. Now we have first generation batteries. Anne says, well we need to develop the capital, so let's get Gerbrand Ceder, so we got Gerbrand Ceder. Well who's going to make these materials? So we got Yet-Ming Chen. We have four faculty working togther: me, a metallurgist, Ann, polymers, Yet-Ming a ceramist, and Gerbrand Ceder, who is the next generation materials scientist. He does everything by computer. He predicts the properties of materials that don't exist yet. So this was the ultimate in determinism. Death to Edisonian cook-and-look, because there isn't enough time. In Japan they can carpet bomb the periodic table, but we can't do that now. So what we did is, you know, let's design these materials by computer, let's pick the most promising compositions, let's fabricate, synthesize those, characterize them. And that's how we went for it.
Arne Hessenbruch: Does this relate to the research of Ballard or Hydro-Quebec?
Donald Sadoway: Yes, Ballard is working on fuel cells, which is the other approach, and we're not involved in that. But Hydro-Quebec absolutely. Hydro-Quebec was trying to build a solid polymer battery. And they made magnificent strides, but they ran out of time, ran out of money. And so what we're doing...
Arne Hessenbruch: Were you in contact with these guys?
Donald Sadoway: Uh, not until it was too late. We invented independently. They contacted us as they were about to go under for the third time. And so we know Gauthier and Armand and all of those guys, so I read the interview with Gauthier, and it's really , just fantastic, just to read that. You know he did fantastic work. Armand, is really, you know, Armand gave birth to lithium polymer batteries. Because it was Peter Wright who in 74 recognized that you could dope a polymer and make it an ionic conductor. And then, Armand said, "Well, if you could make it a lithium ion conductor, you could put lithium metal next to it, and now you have the beginning of a solid state battery." And then for 20 years they've been searching for that solid that will function as the electrolyte. Hydro-Quebec never found it, they used poly-ethylene oxide, but it's a solid at room temperature. Their battery runs at 65 degrees Celsius, so basically, they take it to a temperature where the battery is internally a liquid. We have a material that is 100% solid at room temperature, and cycles beautifully. So we had, both of the Michels were here. We showed them our stuff, and it was, it was like a login, you know these guys they're really wonderful people, and I'll tell you why. Because these are two guys who spent 20 years of their lives trying to develop poly-ethylene oxide, and Anne Mayes comes out of nowhere, alright? And she's a woman. And she's young, and in three years develops a material that leapfrogs over theirs. And instead of coming in and saying, "Oh, but this doesn't, you failed to consider this, you failed to consider this, you failed to consider this", instead they come and they say, "That's cool, the next problem you need to solve is this, the next problem you need to solve is this." They were cheerleaders. I have very high respect for those people. Very high respect. They're really great people. They're exceptional. They're rarities. Because most people would be very defensive about, you know, Jesus you guys have found something that we were looking for and didn't find. It was very rare in science. They're great guys.
Arne Hessenbruch: Could we run through the development of the experimental situation, say, the instrumentation? For instance, could you contrast what it was like in 1975, 85, 95?
Donald Sadoway: Well alright, very simply, the PC. I mean, in 1982, 83 timeframe, I scrimped and saved and begged and borrowed, I put together what was I think at that time, $10,000 which was a reasonable sum of money, and we bought this Mink, it was a computer from Digital Equipment. It was the size of a small refrigerator. It had 64K memory, it had 14 inch floppies. And it could do what most guys have on their watch today, and we thought this was really great. And we still, I mean I can show you data taken right up into the early 90s that I took off of my inert anilin work that was taken off a strip chart recording. And then we had to hand integrate all of the curves and get the results, and so on. You'd sit in front of a meter and copy numbers off the screen into a lab notebook, and then plot these things by hand and so on. You know when you fast forward to 1990, by then you've got A to D [analog to digital] boards with National Instruments card, and now stuff is interfaced, and you're taking data instantaneously and continuously and reading it into spreadsheets and then generating plots. So, first of all, the productivity went way way up, so the instrumentation was absolutely revolutionized by the availability of computational power in the laboratory, which before didn't exist. We were doing digital signal analysis in 1984. How? We had an FM tape recorder, and the student sat next to an electrolysis cell recorded on an FM tape recorder. Then took those reels and went to a mainframe somewhere on campus and had an HD converter, and after some night of sitting there, was able to make the Fourier transform of the data. Then we had the plot of the Fourier transform, but then you still had to work with pencil and paper. Today, you have a card, you're taking the data, it's doing FFTs [Fast Fourier Transforms], in real time. I mean, it's just... day and night.
Arne Hessenbruch: And you were only talking about the speed of the processing in fact. There's another aspect to the integration of the computer technology, I presume? So, what about, for instance, the development of characterization technology?
Donald Sadoway: Oh, I mean, this is all, the post-mortem stuff, I mean the things that we can do in terms of the different types of electron optical microscopies that allow us to measure, to take for example, to analyze specimens and understand what has happened to a material when it's been exposed to a certain environment. So this has had a prime influence, there's all these Nobel-prize winning techniques, the AFM and all of this sort of thing that came out of the mid to late 80s. Scanning tunnelling microscope, all of that stuff, which didn't exist before. The other thing that's been radically innovated is the whole area of sensor technology, which, oddly enough, was enhanced by materials discovery. So materials discovery enabled sensors, but before, even if you had the sensor, if it went to a box and gave you a number, that was nice, but you had to look at that, read something out, the new sensor can give an output that then goes through a device that then sends a signal into a computer, and the computer is now in real time taking that sensor output. And so for example, we were doing on this inert anode work, last time I was working on it was just a year ago and we were looking at PFC emissions from different carbon anodes and contrasting what comes off an inert anode. So we had a gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer that was taking gas off of the anode and instantly sending it into the computer. We have the signal of how much perfluorocarbon is being measured as I instantly change the conditions of the electrolysis. Even several years before, we would take the gas and literally bottle it, it is laughable, we would literally bottle the gas off the anode, record the conditions under which the gas was collected, take it over to chemical engineering, and some technician would then tell us what was in the bottle. I mean, it's just, what's been enabled, in process research, and you know, you're asking about characterization techniques, that's mainly for people that are studying. You know alloy development and new materials and so on. I'm sitting in the processing, and it's phenomenal. And especially in electrochemistry, because electrochemistry has electro in it, so we already have the ability to electrically monitor what we're doing. It's been a huge.... What it's done is it's taken the burden off us so we can now focus on the real materials science and now be running around like one armed paper hangers trying to just make sure that the data doesn't escape us as we're taking it.
Arne Hessenbruch: I was noticing that there was a period that you also focused on Raman spectroscopy for instance. Was it new at that particular....?
Donald Sadoway: What was new at that time, well I mean this was my early research, I was so confused, I mean, I was looking for something new. Because I wanted to get tenure, so I better do something original. My ideas weren't well developed again, at that time, so I got into Raman because Raman was just starting to be used to characterize speciation of molten salts. People wanted to understand, you know, I know what I'm putting in the cocktail, but I don't know how it interacts, and what species are really present. And the thought was that if we understood speciation, then that would give us an insight into the actual electrochemical processes in molten salts, aluminum, magnesium, and so on. Electrolysis. And plus, spectroscopy is not invasive, so I had this vision that if I could perfect this tool, I could actually look at what's happening in the melt in real time, so then I could conduct electrolysis and then see if a certain upset condition is encountered, what are the species present when that upset condition... you know how could I mitigate, and so on, and then the second idea was that, well, the Raman uses a laser signal stimulus, so and the laser has a finite dimension, so in essence you're not sampling the melt, you're sampling a tiny zone of the melt. Really it's a slice of the melt. Well, I could move the position of the laser so I could sample the bulk of the melt and then what I really want to do is to get close to the electrode, to get to the electrode-electrolyte interface. So this was my vision in first getting involved in Raman spectroscopy. To be able to do studies, people were doing this, a lot of people in Europe were doing Raman and molten salts, but they were doing Raman, and they were chemists. They would make a melt, and look at melt speciation, they had a cube about the size of one centimeter on edge, and you know, we had some about the size of a sugar cube, kind of melt. And poking through with the laser and seeing what happens. I wanted to do it in a, this is the applied chemistry, this is the interface. I didn't want to do it in a mallet, that's used in magnesium extraction. I wanted to do magnesium electrolysis, I wanted to run a mini smelter the size of my thumb, and in that smelter probe with the laser. And thereby have something intelligent to say that might be relevant to them the industrial sized smelter. And so I set up here, we had the Raman and the tiny furnaces with windows and so on. Miniature representations of aluminum smelting and magnesium smelting. And we studied these things.
Arne Hessenbruch: Well what's wrong with the picture? Why are you saying you were so confused?
Donald Sadoway: Well, I think that, we didn't have all the capabilities that we have now in terms of integrating all that information, so, yeah, we took some pretty pictures and so on but I don't think we were successful in being able to integrate that knowledge back into the instant electrochemistry. I think if I were to do it over again today, I think we would be much more successful. So I did Raman.
Arne Hessenbruch: What changed?
Donald Sadoway: Well the PC. Now you can integrate all this. See before, you run some.... Basically we were taking data at "steady state". Because it took so long... you know here's another thing that's changed. The detectors have changed. It took so long to get a strong, Raman is a very weak signal, and it took so long to get a strong enough signal that you couldn't take Raman at a data rate fast enough to follow a process. Which probably explains why the guys in Europe didn't even try this. They just believed that it couldn't be done. I just ignored them, and said, let's take the data anyways and let's see if we can follow trends. And there are some papers where you actually see the Raman signals changing with time and I speculate on what's going on. Today, we have detectors that are so much more sensitive. That the time to saturate the detector is so short that you can actually you know, follow processes, you know on a time scale of less than a second. You know every tenth of a second, some tenths of a millisecond you get a refreshed screen, so you can actually look at what's going on. For example, a cell is about to go on anode effect, you can actually follow it. You couldn't do that in 1982. So, I did it for about three or four years, and then it came time for a DOE renewal, and by then the DOE was on to other things, and the contract didn't get renewed and nobody else wanted to spend money on it and so the stuff just lay dormant for 10 years. I finally gave it to a junior faculty member and I said, "Here, you can use it".
Arne Hessenbruch: Your explanation now sounds a little bit like femto-chemistry.
Donald Sadoway: Yes.
Arne Hessenbruch: Except that you're not actually looking at scale of a movement of an electron, say. Well, what are you looking at? You're looking at the movement of ions?
Donald Sadoway: That's right.
Arne Hessenbruch: Okay.
Donald Sadoway: But the thing is, it's a problematic experiment because you're looking at a melt that's almost at a thousand degrees Celsius and the Raman is a weak signal and you've got all this black body radiation, so it's sort of like I'm telling you that I want you to look and tell me when the stops light changes from red to green, but you've got to look at the stop light with the direct sun behind you and you're looking, you're blinded by the sun and you're trying to tell if it's red or green. That's the problem. I was trying to distinguish red from green while looking straight into the sun.
Arne Hessenbruch: Could I invite you to juxtapose what the lab would have looked like in the 1970s, 80s, 90s?
Donald Sadoway: Well in the 70s, there's no computers, alright? There's a lot of strip chart recorders. That's how we were taking data. Power supplies are huge. Because these furnaces are electric furnaces. They have resistance windings. What else is there. The Raman has an optical bench four feet wide it's got a giant, the lasers look like coffins, they're about five feet long, huge, the power supply for the lasers is about the size of a television set. It's got all these hoses going into it with water cooling coming in and out. There are some mirrors, and oh yeah, the monochrometer is another thing about the size of a refrigerator on it's side with mirrors. And the detectors are big and they've got, again, cooling systems and so on.
Arne Hessenbruch: What detectors were they?
Donald Sadoway: They were silicon. They were silicon. It was called, optical multichannel analyzer, and the silicon, oh, a cumbersome acronym that, EG&G used. It was a silicon diode. They had Vivicon and Radicon were their trade names, it was a silicon diode array. And it was very, generated a lot of heat, needed to be cooled.
Arne Hessenbruch: So noise and smell, what was that like?
Donald Sadoway: We had vacuum pumps all over the place, thank you, and it was just "clack clack clack" all the time. Smell... no. Because we were dealing with halides, so we had to keep everything gas tight. So, smell might be smell of hot vacuum pump vinyl. Okay? You know if you're sitting close to the strip chart recording you might smell some ink drying. Guys sitting at desks with lab notebooks of course, and pens, and stuff like that. So that's what it would look like. And then, by the mid 80s, we might have this pride and joy, this Mink, which was about the size of this small cube refrigerator, on a cart, and people fighting over who might be able to use the Mink. And then by the 90s...
Arne Hessenbruch: No, stop! That's too little. Smell? Noise? What about the detectors?
Donald Sadoway: Everything else is strip chart recorders. I mean the electrochemical cells, you'd have a voltmeter, by then they had digital voltmeters, so we had a digital voltmeter, so the electrode leads would go to a voltmeter, and then the back end of the voltmeter would have a regulated voltage that was scaled. Alright, so it would be 0 to 1 volt full scale, and then you would send out the strip chart recording so then .75 volts, meant whatever you scale it, you were on the 10 volts, they also have seven and a half volts, and so on. If you're really lucky you'd have multiple pens on a strip chart recorder so you could be recording temperature and voltage, and so on.
Arne Hessenbruch: And the 90s then?
Donald Sadoway: Nice. First of all, everything is miniaturized, lasers are smaller, power supplies are smaller, the detectors are now these, the kind of detectors that are in these LCD cameras. There's PCs everywhere. Everybody's data logging, they're writing their reports, everything is just, excuse me one second, my daughter has been phoning....
Donald Sadoway: Way down in Amherst, and she called me last night, she said, "the windows won't go up." I said, "Well it's probably a fuse", and so she called me, she said,"they took it in, and they said it's a bad relay, they know what it is, and can only get the part from Ford, and nobody's got it, they're going to have to fly it up from New Jersey, and she says, evidently it's been torrential rain in Western Massachusetts this afternoon. She says, well, anyways, well that was the message. [intermission] Alright, so I'm sorry I had to interrupt.
Arne Hessenbruch: No that's fine.
Donald Sadoway: So we were just talking about the lab, the main differences when the PC came. You just see PCs everywhere, PCs for accurate data acquisition, they're there for report writing and then when the Internet comes along, then what we're doing is we're taking our data and then instead of storing it on hard drive, we're actually exporting it. So I can sit here right now and look at what's going on downstairs and it's just, I mean.... So now you can imagine collaborators anywhere on the planet who want to see what's going on in the experiment. But physically in the lab, the main thing is, that the PC, and to a large degree, the miniaturization of instrumentation. So for example, today, I now have a sputtering unit of my own. It cost 200,000 dollars. The notion that in 1980, I would be able to do physical vapor deposition in my own lab, was just, I mean, you would have some central facility, maybe not even at MIT, where people would be able to bombard a target and make you a thin film of some candidate material. And now I've got a three gun unit and we use it, sort of like, someone might want to prepare a little sample on a slide, and we just go ahead and do it.
Arne Hessenbruch: So if we think about it in terms of circulation; before you would gather the gas in a bottle, I mean you would send the bottle, and the bottle would circulate, and they would create some data, which they would then send to you.
Donald Sadoway: Right.
Arne Hessenbruch: And now, you don't send things out of lab. So in a sense, the facility of the gas analysis has been imported into the lab, right there. So in terms of labor, it's, so you put it in and presumably the positioning of everything is alternated also. It's more or less, it's become more about you know, you press the button, and then ....
Donald Sadoway: Well it's actually more than that, it's that the sample is continuously being monitored. So in other words, OK, now I understand conceptually what you're getting at. What's happened is that the notion of analysis, rather than being, or characterization, as something that is done, as an after.... In other words, we'll plan the experiment, we'll perform the experiment, and then we'll analyze the artifacts of that experiment. The last two have now been integrated and so, we're analyzing the experiment as nearly real-time as possible. Which then allows you to have a much better coupling in terms of diagnosis. But furthermore, what it gives you, is, this is really the harbinger of process control in the real world. You know if I had said to people, actually now it comes back to me, I even was crazy enough back in 1981 to imagine that if I could get this Raman to actually reveal something critical then maybe some day you would imagine Raman in the aluminum smelter where there would be a windmill and they would use Raman as a non-invasive tool to monitor the process and integrate it into process control. I didn't even know if they would know how to do it, because you know, in those days, well they would have had to have a mainframe computer somewhere. But, now, I mean, who imagined, in 1980, that you would be able to do something like this? What I'm looking for is my you know, Raman uses a laser signal, and instead it was this 6 foot thing, and I had to do this, now I can do Raman now. [Using a red light pointer] You see? And the spectrophotometer is now, instead of a box this big with mirrors, with what we're doing with nanotechnology, I mean you can take the signal. So it's not unreasonable to imagine, you could have a site glass on the side. So the miniaturization, and then you know, as far as characterization goes, you're right, we don't ship things out, but, the notion of monitoring and analyzing in real time is really...
Arne Hessenbruch: Yes, sort of a feedback and the speed at which the computer can process it so that you can do the feedback is the big thing.
Donald Sadoway: So sometimes you use it for feedback and other times you don't, other times you just want, you want to have, a temporal record. You want to know how things change with time. And you also have a temporal record of the other process condition so now you can see what the relationships are - which wasn't possible before. You might get a representative result for the experiment. So that meant most of your experiments had to be brought to some form of reproducible steady state. You might have to collect that gas over a period of minutes. And then that would be representative of what was generated over the entire time, even though the process might have been doing this, fluctuating wildly, but on average, you put a man's head in the oven and his feet in ice water, on average, it feels pretty good.
Arne Hessenbruch: So, the... I'm lost in the image of the man who feels pretty good. Where was I going to go?
Donald Sadoway: You were asking about integration of characterization of equipment and the miniaturization feedback. You were asking about the feedback.
Arne Hessenbruch: Oh yes. The question I was going to ask you, was, all this obviously means that much more data is being created. And you don't have to put so much effort into creating the spreadsheets and so on, which was before a part of the analytical process. So now you end up with data that's already nicely presented so that you can begin to look for important things. But I presume also to some extent, there's so much data being produced that you just can't look at it, I mean, where's the bottleneck nowadays?
Donald Sadoway: No, the thing is, you can look at it. You used exactly the right word. Before we collected data in columns of figures, and the columns are buried somewhere in the digital archive of the computer, but I don't have to look at the figures. I can look at the graph, and then I can take, I can say, "All right, why don't we get the same output but at three different temperatures?" So, boom boom boom. Now there they are. And then I say, "Let's just hold it at the 20 minute mark." So now let's take the isocord at 20 minutes. So very quickly you're grabbing things and so you are. You're looking at them, but the way, you know as soon as I want to do something I go like this, I don't write a column of figures. So the ability to take all of these data and portray them graphically, and then manipulate the raw data graphically, is I think, giving us endowing us with the capability of following. In spite of the fact that, I agree with you, we are collecting more data. I don't think, I think that we are, because physically I haven't done more in my lab per unit time. When I conduct an electrolysis experiment, it's just that, there was so much more information. There's so much more information that I can collect right now, before I couldnt. You know, if it didn't end up on that strip chart, I mean I can now put, simple example, if I want to look at current as a function of time if I wanted to see the derivative of that, you know, if I had a strip chart, I had to sit there with tangents, and you know, trying to calculate derivatives. Here now I just say, ok, take this wave form, give me the derivative. Give me the second derivative. It's just, [snap snap] like this.
Arne Hessenbruch: Does it enable you to rise to another level of perspective.
Donald Sadoway: Yes.
Arne Hessenbruch: It does?
Donald Sadoway: Yes. Or, put another way, put another way, because you can take a given experiment and tease out so much from the data, you plan your experiments much more so. See, in the old days there was this catch phrase called a "systematic study". Well a systematic study was a study that was basically shotgun approach. You took you made a matrix, and you say, let's take data at different temperatures and different compositions and different this and different that. Now you've got all this data in tables and you're going to try to see if the pattern here, whereas now, I'll say, "Let's get this cell up and running, and while it's warm, you know, it's at temperature, let's condition our input signals, because we can do everything with computers now, so we can probe the cell in various ways and under very nearly the same set of operating conditions, essentially conduct all kinds of different characterization studies and now step back, whereas before we do this study. And then you do that study. And maybe the cell was just a little bit different from the last time because every time you set it up there's some instant, maybe minor variation, and now you don't know whether the effect you're seeing is real or whether it's an artifact of the fact that you're not as identically configured as you were last time because maybe the compositions were a little bit different, maybe the electrode's got some impurity on it. So it's really, yes, you're going to a higher level. Oddly enough, you're doing more planning and more thinking, so that when you go to the very very energy and resource intensive act of conducting the physical experiment, you make sure that that experiment is well conducted so that you can squeeze out as much information as you can. Basically I tell my students, you know.... Actually I saw a nice quote, it was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, and he said, "If someone gave me ten hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend eight hours sharpening my axe." And that's what we're doing, we spend more time sharpening our axe, instead of just grabbing it and just flailing away, hoping that it will just cut the damn thing down by brute force. And I think we did a lot more chopping in the old days, and less sharpening of the axe. And that's what we can do. I think the computer has allowed us to be sharpening our axe. Why are you laughing?
Arne Hessenbruch: Well it's not a story of progress, rather it's the opposite.
Donald Sadoway: How do you mean?
Arne Hessenbruch: There's stasis. Instead of getting the job done, you prepare to get the work done. And one might expect that more powerful tools will be enabling, and not, in this respect, disabling.
Donald Sadoway: Well, I think, ultimately what you want to do is to solve difficult problems and I'm saying that, that by....
Arne Hessenbruch: There's a value in sharpening the axe?
Donald Sadoway: Oh yes, yes, it's a flawed analogy in that respect. I see it. I see your point. There's an expression that a former dean used to use here, he said, "We know how to work hard here. What we have to do is work smart." And so it's not a matter of saying, "Gee, if only I could do more experiments, then I would be wiser." It's rather, I tell students, "Do the minimum number of experiments that gives you the maximum amount of information." And we've got a lot of information, now let's get some knowledge, okay? So, I think that just doing experiments isn't what it's about. It's ultimately, answering questions. And, answering questions means, understanding what the problem is, advancing a hypothesis, and constructing the minimum number of really elegant experiments, that will test that hypothesis, and either validate it, or point to some other new hypothesis, and that's not brute force. That's, if you can get everything to go to an elegant experiment which is collaterally instrumented, and set up in such a way that it's either/or, so that at every junction you're knowing where you are in this sort of taxonomy tree, then, you move quickly to a solution.
Arne Hessenbruch: Now, your particular part of materials research, how does that differ from other parts in terms of the experimental side? I mean, I imagine that it is comparitively cheap. You don't need any fancy stuff like neutron diffraction, where you would need to go somewhere else. You could put it in the room and pretty much leave it, is that right?
Donald Sadoway: Well, certainly on the electrolytic stuff, but in the battery stuff, I mean the characterization of our polymers, in fact, rely on neutron scattering, and Anne and our students end up going to these very hard to find high energy facilities.
Arne Hessenbruch: Okay.
Donald Sadoway: So....
Arne Hessenbruch: Anything else than neutron diffraction? What else do you....
Donald Sadoway: Small-angle x-ray, which is also coming off of, you know we've done small-angle x-ray scanning at Brookhaven, the neutron is down at NIST in Gaithersburg, and then, you know if we could, we'd use the advanced photon source at Argonne. Because, you know when it comes to characterizing polymers, you have to go to such wavelengths, otherwise you're just not going to... they're basically ... transparenting all forms of light including x-rays, so you're not going to learn anything there.
Arne Hessenbruch: And do you use joint facilities here at MIT?
Donald Sadoway: Yes.
Arne Hessenbruch: Which ones?
Donald Sadoway: The transmission electron microscopy, that's the main one that the polymer people are using. We occasionally use x-ray, x-ray diffraction, XPS [X-ray Photo-electron Spectroscopy], we use XPS to characterize surface films, yes. That's pretty much it. The other facilities, they have their own in-house GPS.
Arne Hessenbruch: Well, maybe very briefly: if I have understood you correctly, there's nothing that's happened in electrochemistry in terms of revolutionizing basics. You know, the basic theory of electrochemistry hasn't changed.
Donald Sadoway: Correct.
Arne Hessenbruch: But what has changed a lot is knowledge of the various materials and the actual dynamics of the electrochemical processes. That has changed a lot.
Donald Sadoway: Right.
Arne Hessenbruch: Let's shift the perspective and talk a little about patents and publications. Would it be fair to say that, 25 years ago, there would have been more emphasis on publication and less emphasis on patents as a career path within academia?
Donald Sadoway: Yes.
Arne Hessenbruch: Can you characterize the change over 25 years in this respect, or is it just a smooth change?
Donald Sadoway: Well I can't, I don't know that there are sort of critical events that make it... I'm not sure I can point to it. I just know that somewhere over the course of that time period, the universities, particularly MIT became much more astute in how to use patents. I think the problem in the past was that they didn't know what to do with patents. The patents are useless. It's the license that's valuable. Obviously you can't have a license as long as you have a patent. In the past, the endgame seemed to be the patent. The patent got filed away in the drawer in what was called the patent office. And, around about early 80s at MIT, they... there was a revolution in the patent office. I don't know where it came from, this might be an interesting... the person you really need to talk to is, he's no longer at MIT, but he's around, he's a man by the name of John Preston. And John became the director of what was renamed the Technology and Licensing Office. And the goal there was to get licenses, not patents. And they became, really, ... they farmed out all the legal work. They started to work from the perspective of, if the professor has the idea, let's try to get the intellectual property nailed down, and then let's look to prospective licensees. Let's market the technology. And this was also right around the time, it was the Reagan years, there was a lot of venture capital starting up, and people with money. And there was actual renewed belief that technology was actually going to solve problems. And that with new technology there was possibility of founding new businesses. And so all of that, I think these confluent streams merged, and the TLO by the late 80s, the revenue from licenses was really substantial. And there was a whole different aura on the campus. I mean, it wasn't that you know, I was getting any pressure, or there was any suggestion that patents are better than publications, because certainly in terms of promotion and tenure cases, they didn't figure.
Arne Hessenbruch: The patents didn't figure?
Donald Sadoway: Correct. Correct. They didn't.
Arne Hessenbruch: And they do now?
Donald Sadoway: I don't... people will look at them and they say that they know that the person's work is having some impact on the outside and the commercial sense, but I can tell you, if the publications aren't there and the reputation of the individual as expressed in ... as characterized in the letters, the outside letters, if the scientific reputation isn't there, the person will not be promoted, the person will not get tenure. So, I don't think that the ascendancy of patents and the greater profile they have today has had an impact there. I think where they may have had an impact, we could argue whether it's desirable or undesirable, it all depends on the individual, is that I see much more than I did when I got here in 78: the involvement of faculty in start-up companies related to intellectual property developed at MIT. So, I guess you really do need the patent, because otherwise the investor has no assurance that the technology isn't going to be duplicated somewhere else by someone who's got lower costs. You really have to get control over the technology. Track down Preston and you'll get a much better picture of what's going on! And it's occurring with different intensities in different fields. For example, I bet you right now in molecular biology it's pandemonium. And that's the way it was in materials in the late 80s. You know one of the things that really triggered was the High-TC. When High-TC superconductivity came along all of a sudden materials ended up on the radar screen of investors because High-TC was the record of journal was the New York Times front page. Okay. That was a materials discovery that did not go the normal route of peer review and so on. And it paved the way for the cold fusion debacle because people had grown accustomed to going to the press instead of going to the editors of the journals. So, High-TC got materials on the front page. Literally.
Arne Hessenbruch: Journals. You were principal editor of JMR [Journal of Materials Research] for five years.
Donald Sadoway: Oh, it was just, something to do as part of your professional development. Julian Szekely was an associate editor, or principal editor, they have a dozen or so principal editors and Julian passed away in, I guess it was 95, so pretty much most of 95 he was quite ill. And Bob Laudise, who was the editor-in-chief of JMR, with whom I had, he was from Bell labs, he had an adjunct appointment here in the Materials Department. He would come up one day a week, and he lectured, and he was also interested in the environment. He was one of the early proponents of the environment. In fact, it was really Bob Laudisse's patronage at Bell Labs that got Allenby and Gradle writing books like this. Bob Laudisse is the gray eminence behind a lot of this stuff. So Bob knew that I was interested in the environment, interested in materials, in the environment and so on, and so he called me one day and he said, "Julian's not doing well, I need someone to take over, would you take over from Julian?" And I had enormous respect for Bob and so I agreed to. So for five years I did it.
Arne Hessenbruch: Doesn't sound like your first love.
Donald Sadoway: No, it wasn't. But, I learned a lot from it. The reason is that JMR is really far removed in it's center of gravity from the part of materials science and engineering that I am situated in. Oddly enough, I started publishing in JMR because I found that the reviewers were much more intelligent. So, you know, like the battery story is a very unusual story. I wanted to... there's an important message there that's really lost on a lot of people around here is that the model here is that academics, professors should do research, not only for the thrill of discovery, but also that in the development of that knowledge, some of that knowledge eventually ends up in the classroom. So that research informs teaching. But my battery odyssey was the inverse. I started my research in batteries because of a problem I became aware of in my teaching. And I think that's a really cool story. Because it points to the need to teach, because if you teach, you have to explain. And when you have to explain, you'll discover you don't really understand it that well and you're liable to stumble upon a really interesting research problem. I gave birth to a whole field of battery research at MIT and it's changing battery research throughout the world. That sounds arrogant, but it's true. And what's different, we got Gerd Ceder involved, and Gerd Ceder has now got computational materials science at work in battery research, which you would never imagine. Because battery research is very Edisonian, very empirical in 95. Today, there's a fraction of determinism, and it started here, and it started because I had to teach that darned class in technology and policy. It's a really cool story. I like it. Why are you laughing? No, it is a cool story.
Arne Hessenbruch: One last small point, what's the Norwegian connection?
Donald Sadoway: Oh. Well, Norway you know, has mountains, and water runs down the mountains. They have hydroelectric power, so they're world leaders in the production of aluminum and magnesium. And since my research was in aluminum and magnesium, obviously there were people from Norway who were involved, so I know the guys in Trondheim, I met Harald Øye, Terje Østvold, and who else, Jomar Thonstad, all these big guns in molten solid electrochemistry, in applied electrochemistry. And so, you know, I've been there many times, I've served on their PhD thesis committees, and yes. So I love going there. So where's your? You're from Denmark. You know, I spent the summer of 99 in Denmark. Because there's also some really good molten salt chemistry at the Technical University at Denmark. Niels Bjerrum. And there's a whole large group there, so Niels, I mean, I've known him, going back probably twenty years or so. They have these faculty fellowships to invite people to spend a month or so at DTU. And so he called me and he said, "Look, I've got this money and you know I'd really like your comments. And so I accepted the offer and I spent a month in the Summer of 99. It was great. I was in Lyngby, and they gave me a little bicycle. I had an apartment. Do you know this place?
Arne Hessenbruch: That's where I grew up.
Donald Sadoway: Oh, geez. Well I was right on what you call Hovedgaden, the main street, there was this pastry shop across the street, and there was this green grocer and I had an apartment right above. And you know the Iso was just down the street, and I had the bicycle, it was great. So I would ride the bike up to the campus in the morning, I just spent a month there. I wrote some papers, I interacted with the people there, in the lab, it was a ball. I'd go back in a heartbeat. So I had this routine, I had this little apartment. I'd get up in the morning, I'd get up around 6, I'd get up and go for a run. And I took just enough coinage with me so I'd get up and put the coffee maker on, and I'd start running, and I'd run to the end of the street and I'd come back on the other side, and I'd end at the bakery. And I had enough coinage to just buy one of those really fabulous danish pastries. And then I'd walk across the street with this hot danish pastry, go back to my apartment, had the coffee, poured myself some juice, I'd turn on CNN, I'd sit there and eat this. Then I jump in the shower, and get on my bicycle. It was so cool. I loved it there. And yes, I made a number of trips into the city. Oh. It was lovely. It was lovely. Oh yes. So....
Arne Hessenbruch: That's where I grew up, there's a fish monger on this main street, I don't know if you know, but my... it's not our family's anymore, but my ancestors came from a fishing village in Jutland to Copenhagen and had that fish shop. That's why, that's where I come from.
Donald Sadoway: Jesus. Well this, I mean, I eat fish, I mean, I only ate meat, once there, because the fish was so good. And there was this, there was the in Iso itself there's a really good, obviously they sell fresh fish, but they sell fresh fish here in Star Market, but the quality is so so. Some Star Markets are better than others. The one on Mt. Auburn is pretty decent. But some of the others are.... But this place here, I mean, it was just a matter of pointing, you know, there. So, by the end of the month, on my last day, when I came in, the guy knew me every day, so I said, "this is my last day I'm flying back to the States", I mean, he was, he was giving me some of the extra, you know the pickled herring, and he was, no charge, just take this. I ate every fish there. It was so fantastic. So I come home and I'd typically bake it. My wife didn't want to spend the whole month. She came for one week. And she cooked the whole time, I couldn't get her to go to a restaurant, because she said, this fish is so fantastic. So we were downloading recipies off the internet and cooking, it was great there. I love it there. I really, I enjoyed Denmark immensely. Just... and so I've been enough times, and I mean, I don't know Danish. I don't know Norwegian, but I've been enough times now that when I walk around the streets I recognize the signs and I know what alot of the words mean. And so speaking is no ... Danish is very hard by the way. It's not phonetic. I know now where the English craziness, it comes from Denmark. Because in Norway, it's phonetic. You know. The words are pronounced according to some rules. But in Denmark, there's a little bit of ... it's good. My Norwegian colleagues tell me the Danes are like the Mediterraneans, the Scandinavians. Terje Østvold, he says, the Danish, you speak Norwegian as though you have a hot potato in your mouth. But I loved it there. We went to the museum. The first weekend, it was pouring rain. It was terrible. Niels felt terrible: Louisiana. We went to Louisiana. Oh, I loved it there. And there was a Ukrainian woman who was in Niels' lab. She's now a permanently situated there. And he took her because my ancestors are from the Ukraine. So he thought, well, we could have some partnership. And I knew her from Kiev, years before, from when I was there. So, that's an interesting story too. But anyways, I was ... So we went there, it was teeming rain the whole time. And we were in this museum and it was very avant-garde. Very crazy. Very avant-garde. And we had a great time there. And then subsequently we had the best summer they'd ever had. Very little rain. Always sunny.
So, the directory says to me, " Look. For your lecture tomorrow, I'd like you to give it in Ukrainian." And I said, "Look. Yeah, I speak the language, but it's kitchen language. I learned it from my grandmother. You know, this is the language of peasants in the Austro-Hungarian empire." He says, "No no. Your language is fine. Don't worry, I'll have a couple of girls." And he uses the term "girls". Anyway, "A couple of our girls will be in the front row. If you get stuck, they can prompt you." I said, "Yes, but my slides are all in English." He says, "That's okay. My people will know English, but they're shy. They won't speak English. But, you can do it." I said, "Okay, fine." So, I had already been there 3 days. And I was starting to develop the vocabulary. So anyway, the lecture starts at 10 and it went for about an hour and 15 minutes. And then we stayed for questions. And then they took me to lunch. So I walked out of the hall and the Director - remember, this is 450 people, an institute that was founded in the '20s - he says, "That was the first lecture ever given in this building in the Ukrainian language." Because it was all russified. They were forbidden to use Ukrainian. And no one would have the courage to say, "What are you doing speaking in Ukrainian? You are a professor from MIT. They can't touch you." And I had chills, because I grew up in Canada and I didn't speak English until I was 4 years old. And for me, I grew up in the '50s in Canada and I was made to feel embarrassed about my background because I wasn't of Anglo-Saxon extraction. And there was a time when I, I remember, I still vividly remember, this. This is the insidious nature of how people can strip you of your self-esteem. My parents ... when I was born, I lived with my grandparents. My parents and grandparents lived in the same house. It was all Ukrainian. And when I was 3 years old, my parents moved to Oshawa from Toronto. And now I was growing up in Oshawa, I learned English a month or two when the little kids learned English like that. So then I go off to school in kindergarten. Okay, it's just playtime. First grade, I think I was about 7 years old. Maybe I was in the first or second grade. And I vividly remembered coming home one day, and saying to my parents, "I don't want to speak this language anymore. I want you to speak English to me." And it took me years before I was able to realize what these monsters were doing. They were not just doing this to me, but to anybody who had a strange name. And so I pretty much forgot the language. And then when I was in college, I went to Toronto and I lived in my grandmother's place. My mother's mother. And so I learned a little bit of it. But this was just simple kitchen language. I wasn't going to discuss molten solid electrochemistry with her. But I knew the structure of the language. And because I'd spoken it from the cradle, when I speak the language it's un-accented. In fact, one night when I was there, during that week in January, I was at somebody's apartment. And some people came in late. And we were sitting at this big dinner, food, they were teasing me. They said, "You see, it's a mystery for you. You go to the stores and there's nothing on the shelves. And yet, you go into the apartments and there's food and there's wine and there's everything. It's a mystery." I said, "Yes, it sure is." So these people come in and I was talking at some point in the conversation. And the guy says to me, "L'viv is the main city in western Ukraine. And I was in Kiev." And he said, "So how long did the journey from L'viv take you?" And I said, "I'm not from L'viv, I'm from Boston." And he couldn't believe it. He said, "You speak the most pristine western Ukrainian. It's unadulterated, there's no hint of Russification. It sounds just like." And somebody says, "Where?" Well, I was born in Canada. They said, "No." I said, "Yes." They asked, "Well, where's your father from?". "He was born in Canada." He said, "What!?" Well, it's true my father was born in Canada. My mother she acutally left Ukraine, she was about two years old. "Where was she from?" So I named the place she was born, the guy says, "My father was born there." I said, "That's nice." "He's 83 years old and he lives in an apartment 1 kilometer from here. We're going there." So at 10 o'clock at night we go there and I meet his father, he's 83 years old. And this fella phones his father, he's very excited. His father goes, "By all means, bring him over." So I come in and we start talking and he says, "Absolutely, I can hear it in your accent." It was just unbelievable. It was fantastic. So this was like a fusion of the sides. They didn't invite me because I was of Ukrainian extraction, that was a bonus. They invited me because they were looking for - they were starting to reach out to name-brand institutions and MIT was one. And I worked in molten solid chemistry, and I could have been Mick Tavish and they still would have been interested in having me. But, the fact that I had the language - in a week, I could go very deep very quickly. And when he told me I was the first person to ever give a lecture in Ukrainian, I nearly cried. It was like all this stuff your grandmother's telling you when you're a little baby in the cradle, all of a sudden, has enormous political impact for those people. It was amazing. Because I met people there. I was polite to them, guys who spent their entire lives in Kiev and speak no Ukrainian. None. So the guy's speaking Russian to me and, "I'm sorry, I don't know Russian." So we ended up speaking broken English. Or someone would bring a translator. In the late '20s, the Ukrainian Republic, they were part of the Soviet Union, but there was this period where they was almost this illusion of the Soviet Union really was a Confederation of individual Republics. The President of the Ukraine Republic was a man by the name of Skrepnik. Skrepnik was so defiant, when he went to Moscow to meet with Stalin, he came as though as he was a visiting head of state and he brought with him a translator. Can you imagine doing this? But he would go into meetings with Stalin, and he would only speak Ukrainian and the translator would speak Russian to Stalin That's the mindset that they had. Well you know what happened. In the '30s there were the show trials. He committed suicide in 1932. They were so repressed.
Arne Hessenbruch: Are you in touch with Ukrainian science now?
Donald Sadoway: I have some contacts there, but they're very poor, because they're still trying to unlearn all of the bad lessons that they learned under the Soviet Union. The last major contact I had was a fellow who's the Director of this. The fellow who was there at the time has since past away. His successor was here with two other people in March of this year. They were in the States for about a week. And we actually have written some proposals together trying to get money to clean up the environmental mess there, using electrochemical techniques to clean up the environment. And it's a field day there. It's the whole periodic table plus the nuclear problems. So, they were here... His wife is a dean at the University in Kiev and the third person was from western Ukraine. So his speaking and mine were very clean. Bolkov was the Director who doesn't speak Ukrainian. His wife speaks beautiful Ukrainian and she's the dean at this other University. And it was interesting because they came and they were interested initially to learn what I was doing in molten salt chemistry and explored opportunities for collaboration. But because his wife was the dean, she was very interested in 3.091 and what we're doing in that. So, it's the typical experience that I've had. I came from there full of enthusiasm. I wrote all these letters and sent information and then nothing: total silence. They don't know how to maintain correspondence. They don't know how to cultivate. It's just ... it takes time. I think basically, it's going to take a new generation. And that new generation has to be brought to western Europe, brought to North America, educated in the way we go about business. And then take that back. Because these old guys they still have this thing of "I don't want to put anything in writing. I don't want to sign my name to anything. Who's watching?" It's a problem. I feel bad because... But I also know it's ... I actually get called by people from Washington when they get these grants, they're trying to put science... prevent everyone from going and working in Iraq. They're trying to keep some of these guys working there. So there's some scientific funds available. So, often I'll get a call from some mysterious office in Washington asking me, "We have a proposal on this topic, would you mind reviewing it?"
This page was last updated on 4 February 2004 by Arne Hessenbruch.