ESP Biography



LIZA PLOTNIKOV, MIT Materials Science and Engineering '09




Major: Materials Science & Engineering

College/Employer: Northwestern University

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Liza Plotnikov

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Liza graduated from MIT in 2009 in Materials Science and Engineering. She's now a graduate student at Northwestern University, also in Materials. Her research involves shooting small pieces of metal with a laser until they come apart atom by atom.

Liza has taught for Splashes at MIT, Stanford, and University of Chicago, and founded NU Splash at Northwestern (nusplash.learningu.og). Her hobbies include watching Project Runway with her roommates, eating sushi, and wearing silly hats.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
Exploding space shuttles, collapsing bridges, exploding naval guns… sometimes designs fail, and sometimes they fail catastrophically. These failures can be dramatic, deadly, or sometimes just plain silly, but they have one thing in common: they are all preventable. In this class we’ll cover the technical missteps behind some famous engineering disasters (and some you may never have heard of). We’ll talk about how smart people can make bad designs, the importance of communication, and especially the value of common sense.


Learn to Play Liar's Dice in Splash! 2013 (Nov. 23 - 24, 2013)
At some point in your life (or afterlife), you may find yourself trapped on a cursed ship, doomed to forever serve the infamous Davy Jones in his never-ending journey on the high seas. How can you win your freedom? Challenge him to a game of Liar's Dice of course! Liar's Dice is a fun and interactive game that combines luck, probability, and good old fashioned bluffing, as popularized by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoPeqtR5vpc, Come learn the game, beat your friends, and win some prizes!


Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash! 2012 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2012)
Exploding space shuttles, collapsing bridges, exploding naval guns… sometimes designs fail, and sometimes they fail catastrophically. These failures can be dramatic, deadly, or sometimes just plain silly, but they have one thing in common: they are all preventable. In this class we’ll cover the technical missteps behind some famous engineering disasters (and some you may never have heard of). We’ll talk about how smart people can make bad designs, the importance of communication, and especially the value of common sense.


What's a Quasicrystal? in Splash! 2012 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2012)
Last year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Dan Shechtman "for the discovery of quasicrystals". In this class, we'll talk about what a crystal is in the context of materials science, how a quasicrystal is different from a regular crystal, what quasicrystals are used for, and why their discovery is deserving of a Nobel prize.


Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Exploding space shuttles, collapsing bridges, exploding naval guns… sometimes designs fail, and sometimes they fail catastrophically. These failures can be dramatic, deadly, or sometimes just plain silly, but they have one thing in common: they are all preventable. In this class we’ll cover the technical missteps behind some famous engineering disasters (and some you may never have heard of). We’ll talk about how smart people can make bad designs, the importance of communication, and especially the value of common sense.


Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Small Things: an Introduction to Nanotechnology in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Let’s say you have a brick of pure gold. What color do you think it would be? Probably yellow, right? Okay, let’s say you take your brick of gold and cut in in half. Now what color is it? Probably still yellow, right? Alright, now what if you cut your brick of gold in half so many times that you wind up with a teensy piece that’s only a couple hundred atoms across. Of course you’d find that its color is….red? Turns out that stuff tends to behave really weirdly when it’s small. Why? How can we even tell what something that small is doing? Come find out.


Why do Metals Conduct Electricity? in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
Why do metals conduct electricity? Why do insulators insulate? What the heck is a semiconductor? In this class we’ll talk about what gives a material its electrical properties. We’ll also learn how there properties can be tweaked to build electronic devices (like the computer you’re using to read this course description).


What's a Quasicrystal? in Splash! 2011 (Nov. 19 - 20, 2011)
This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry is being awarded to Dan Shechtman "for the discovery of quasicrystals". In this class, we'll talk about what a crystal is in the context of materials science, how a quasicrystal is different from a regular crystal, what quasicrystals are used for, and why their discovery is deserving of a Nobel prize.


Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Exploding space shuttles, collapsing bridges, exploding naval guns… sometimes designs fail, and sometimes they fail catastrophically. These failures can be dramatic, deadly, or sometimes just plain silly, but they have one thing in common: they are all preventable. In this class we'll cover the technical missteps behind some famous engineering disasters (and some you may never have heard of). We'll talk about how smart people can make bad designs, the importance of communication, and especially the value of common sense.


Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Small Things: an Introduction to Nanotechnology in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Let's say you have a brick of pure gold. What color do you think it would be? Probably yellow, right? Okay, let's say you take your brick of gold and cut in in half. Now what color is it? Probably still yellow, right? Alright, now what if you cut your brick of gold in half so many times that you wind up with a teensy piece that's only a couple hundred atoms across. Of course you'd find that its color is....red? Turns out that stuff tends to behave really weirdly when it's small. Why? Come find out.


Why do Metals Conduct Electricity? in Splash! 2010 (Nov. 20 - 21, 2010)
Why do metals conduct electricity? Why do insulators insulate? What the heck is a semiconductor? In this class we'll talk about what gives a material its electrical properties. We'll also learn how there properties can be tweaked to build electronic devices (like the computer you're using to read this course description).


Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Small Things: an Introduction to Nanotechnology in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Let's say you have a brick of pure gold. What color do you think it would be? Probably yellow, right? Okay, let's say you take your brick of gold and cut in in half. Now what color is it? Probably still yellow, right? Alright, now what if you cut your brick of gold in half so many times that you wind up with a teensy piece that's only a couple hundred atoms across. Of course you'd find that its color is....red? Turns out that stuff tends to behave really weirdly when it's small. Why? Come find out.


Why do Metals Conduct Electricity? in Splash! 2009 (Nov. 21 - 22, 2009)
Why do metals conduct electricity? Why do insulators insulate? What the heck is a semiconductor? In this class we'll talk about what gives a material its electrical properties. We'll also learn how there properties can be tweaked to build electronic devices (like the computer you're using to read this course description).


The Fascinating Life of the Crystalline Solid in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Have you ever wondered what most solids actually look like on the atomic scale? How do the atoms stack together? What sort of patterns do they follow? Why can something that's strong and brittle and something that's weak and ductile be made of the same material? In this class, we'll talk about the structure of metals and other solids whose atoms tend to arrange themselves into ordered patterns. We'll talk about the energetics of solid formation, and how these materials behave under stress.


Meet the Semiconductor in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
We all know the standard high school chemistry explanation: metals conduct, insulators insulate, and semiconductors can't make up their minds. Let's go beyond that. We'll start out by exploring the electronic structure of semiconductors and what it is that makes them so useful. Then we'll move on to looking at what types of devices can be made from semiconductors at a very basic level.


What Can a Semiconductor Do for You? in Splash! 2008 (Nov. 22 - 23, 2008)
Now that we know the basics of how semiconductors function, let's move on to what devices we can make from them. The first half of the class will be devoted to the devices themselves: LEDs, solar panels, transistors, etc. In the second half, we'll talk about how we can physically manufacture such devices (it's not easy!).


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASH (2007)
Do you feel your life wasting away before your eyes due to your lack of balloon animal-making skills? I felt ...


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASH (2007)
Do you feel your life wasting away before your eyes due to your lack of balloon animal-making skills? I felt ...


Patrol in SPLASH (2007)
Travel to strange new classrooms. Meet interesting, unusual people, and kill them! Patrol is a high-action game of live combat ...


What can a semiconductor do for you? in SPLASH (2007)
We all know the standard high school chemistry explanation: metals conduct, insulators insulate, and semiconductors can't make up their minds. ...


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASHONWHEELS (2006)
Do you feel your life wasting away before you due to your lack of balloon animal-making skills? Balloon animals are ...


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASHONWHEELS (2006)
Do you feel your life wasting away before you due to your lack of balloon animal-making skills? Balloon animals are ...


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASH (2006)
Come experience the fun and excitement of making balloon animals. Latex balloons are very easy to shape into all kinds ...


Balloon Animal Workshop in SPLASH (2006)
Come experience the fun and excitement of making balloon animals. Latex balloons are very easy to shape into all kinds ...


Patrol in SPLASH (2006)
Travel to strange new classrooms. Meet interesting, unusual people, and kill them! Patrol is a high-action game of live combat ...


Chocolate Truffles Laboratory in SPLASH (2005)
Start with pounds of chocolate (dark, milk, and white), add cream, add amazing flavorings... by Sunday night, we will have ...


Greek Mythology in SPLASH (2005)
The ancient Greeks had one of the coolest networks of stories and myths in the world. Come learn some of ...


How to Be a Soviet in SPLASH (2005)
Do you feel the communist blood rushing through you, yearning for a chance to express itself? Are you interested in ...


The Geodesic Dome I in SPLASH (2005)
Engineering and science in action and in discussion. Build a climbable 15.5-foot diameter geodesic dome! While building the dome, we'll ...


The Geodesic Dome II in SPLASH (2005)
Engineering and science in action and in discussion. Build a climbable 15.5-foot diameter geodesic dome! While building the dome, we'll ...