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Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta

John Nychka received his formal training in Metallurgical Engineering (B.Sc. 1997, University of Alberta, Co-op with Distinction), materials science & engineering (M.Eng. 1999, McMaster University), and materials (Ph.D. 2004, University of California Santa Barbara).

During his bachelor's program Nychka worked as a co-op student in a forge and manufacturing facility in Edmonton, an open pit copper mine in B.C., and at a ceramics research lab in Fort Saskatchewan. It was the ceramics lab job that got him hooked on research. Receiving a Dean's Research Award in 1997 to work in the area of bioceramics also helped solidify Nychka's interest in research. After finsihing his B.Sc. he worked for a short time as an EIT for the MicroWear Corporation (now owned by Indexable Cutting Tools) before pursuing his thesis based master's degree on the characterization of microstructure and mechanical properties of SiAlON ceramics for cutting tools used in CNC machining of metallic components. Nychka's master's degree was co-funded by MicroWear and NSERC through an Industrial Post-Graduate Scholarship, and his work earned him a Best Student Poster Award at the Canadian Ceramics Society annual meeting in Toronto, 1999.

Nychka's doctorate was on high temperature alloys, namely high temperature oxidation mechanisms and diffusional processes associated with in-situ protective oxide growth. Applications for such work are in high temperature power conversion systems such as gas turbine engines, and in high temperature furnace elements and furniture for heat treating. Nychka's contributions in the area of high temperature materials (alloys, oxides, and ceramic coatings) are well know in the community, and he received a Best Poster award for his doctoral work at the Engineering Conferences International: Thermal Barrier and Environmental Coatings Conference in Irsee, Germany, 2003.

As a post-doctoral fellow at UC Santa Barbara Nychka was involved with building equipment and developing testing procedures to measure the vibrational response of high temperature alloys and thermal barrier coating systems at high temperature. At the end of his post-doc term Nychka became an instructor at UC Santa Barbara for summer session before accepting a faculty position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Nychka remained in Kentucky from 2005-2007 and began a new research focus in bioceramics and bioceramic glasses used in bioresorbable implant therapies for bone defect repair. He also started collaborations in the structure and functional morphology of insects (in particular in hymenoptera), which continues at present.

After moving back to Alberta in 2007, Nychka has been pursuing his interests in the mechanical behaviour of ceramics, glasses, and metallic alloys, with a common theme of how residual stress affects materials performance at the microstructural level. New areas of research have been in collaborations in materials for catalyst supports, materials for electronic books, and using oxidation as a non-destructive monitoring tool in welding.

Nychka's teaching focus is in introductory materials engineering courses, and his long term goal is to develop visual teaching techniques through demonstrations that can be adopted by other faculty members on an international scale. Other teaching development areas include integration of formative assessment and active learning within the classroom, and in April 2009 Nychka was the PI of University of Alberta Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) award (co-organized by UTS and co-sponsored by the Faculty of Engineering and the CME Department) which put on a Formative Assessment workshop with an international expert in assessment, Prof. Royce Sadler of Griffith University in Brisbane, Austrailia. In April 2009, Nychka was also a member of a faculty-student panel discussion regarding assessment issues at the University of Alberta. Nychka is dedicated to mentoring graduate students in teaching and was a faculty mentor to Mr. Nemanja Danilovic, who was a recipient of a Fraser and Shirley Russell Teaching Fellowship, 2009.

Nychka's teaching style is heavily reliant upon garnering student reflection, and reinforcing concepts through real world examples and student feedback and interaction. Nychka is a self-proclaimed junk collector because having more junk in his office allows him to help students make better, and longer lasting, connections between real materials concepts and the real world. If you have any broken "stuff" that you think would make an interesting failure analysis, or is made of a magical material, and you wish to donate the item(s) please contact him!


  • –present
    Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering , University of Alberta


Fellow of Engineers Canada (FEC); Honorary Fellow of Geoscientists Canada (FGC Hon.)