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MATSE 202 - Introduction to Polymer Materials

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Materials made from many types of natural organic materials, (cotton, wool, hemp, leather, etc.) have been with us throughout recorded history and have played crucial roles in the rise of civilizations and the economies of tribes and nations. Over the course of the last 100 years or so, the development of synthetic organic materials, particularly polymers, has transformed the way we live. Modern transportation systems, much of contemporary medicine and the entire electronics and computer industry would not be possible without these materials. In order to understand their nature and provide a basis for a more in-depth understanding of these materials provided by courses with a more specific focus, why they are ubiquitous in modern society, this course will provide students with a basic knowledge of the structure, synthesis and properties and processing of these materials, starting with a review of atomic and molecular structure and proceeding through basic elements of the chemical synthesis, structure, mechanical properties and processing of these materials. A comparison will also be made between the mechanical properties of “hard” inorganic materials such as metals and ceramics, and “soft” organic materials such as polymers. The primary intended audience is undergraduates in Materials Science and Engineering. This course will provide a necessary overview of organic materials for those students who will focus on inorganic materials in the major and also provide an introduction to organic materials for those students who will specialize in polymers and other organic materials. It is also anticipated that students in other disciplines who want to obtain an overview of the science and engineering of organic materials would want to take this course.


When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • recognize the reaction mechanisms involved in polymer synthesis and the kinetics of these reactions;
  • describe basic concepts of polymer chain architecture, structure and morphology, with particular emphasis on the relationship between chemical structure (chain architecture) and the morphology of the solid state (semi-crystalline vs. amorphous polymers);
  • define the thermal properties of polymers, particularly the crystallization temperature and elementary aspects of crystallization kinetics, the melting temperature and the glass transition; to teach how these properties depend on structure;
  • explain basic aspects of the solution properties of polymers, interactions and the relationship to chemical structure, including phase behavior and the measurement of molecular weight;
  • describe the fundamentals of polymer structure/property relationships;
  • make simple predictions for design of polymer materials;
  • characterize methodologies that relate to the bulk properties of polymers, polymer structure, and polymer behavior.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

Required Textbook

ISBN: 978-0849339295 - Introduction to Polymers, 3rd Edition(link is external), 2011, by Robert J. Young and Peter A. Lovell is required. This book will be made available in digital form through the Penn State Library. Additional reading materials may be posted on the course website.

Recommended Additional Reading

Fundamental Principles of Polymeric Materials by Christopher Brazel and Stephen Rosen. Digital eBook available through the PSU library.


CHEM 202, MATH 231


We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8 - 10 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include the following, and grades will be based on percentages assigned to each of several components of the course as follows:

  • Participation (25% of your final grade)
    Participation includes completing homework and Practice Exam Peer Grade (PEPG) with your assigned scholar group. Your assigned scholar group can complete these activities in person or online through Zoom or Teams. Each of the assignments will have an individual component and a group component.
  • 4 Section Exams (60% of your final grade)
  • Final exam (15% of your final grade)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
  • Intro to “soft” materials. Brief chemical structure/bonding/organic chemistry review. What is a polymer? Fundamental overarching concepts of polymer chemistry and material properties, nomenclature
  • Polymer structure and molar mass
  • Step-growth polymerization, condensation reactions
  • Mechanisms and statistics.
  • Homeworks 0, 1, and 2
  • PEPG 1
  • Exam 1
  • Chain-growth polymerization; free radical polymerization
  • Free radical polymerization, reactions, mechanisms, kinetics
  • Ionic polymerization
  • Stereochemistry, coordination polymerization
  • Homeworks 3 and 4
  • PEPG 2
  • Exam 2
  • Ring-opening polymerization and copolymerization
  • Polymer conformations
  • Homeworks 5 and 6
  • PEPG 3
  • Exam 3
  • Polymer solutions, Flory-Huggins
  • Polymer characterization methods
  • Mechanical properties of polymers and processing
  • Homeworks 7, 8, and 9
  • PEPG 4
  • Exam 4
  • Stimuli responsive polymers and gels
  • Organic electronics
  • 3-D printing and multiphoton lithography
  • Homework 10
  • Final Exam