Splash at Northwestern: Winter Splash February 26th, 2023


NU Splash Biography

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LIZA PLOTNIKOV, NU grad student permanently obsessed with Splash




College: Northwestern University

Major: Materials Science & Engineering

Year of Graduation: G

Picture of Liza Plotnikov

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Liza graduated from MIT in 2009 after 4 years of teaching for MIT's Splash program. When she came to Northwestern for graduate school, she missed teaching for Splash so much that she decided to start one here. Liza's research involves studying how turbine blade materials evolve with temperature and yelling at her instruments when they break. In her free time, she reads fantasy books, listens to Russian pop music, and continues her neverending quest to find a decent New England clam chowder in Chicago.



Past Classes

  (Clicking a class title will bring you to the course's section of the corresponding course catalog)


E141: Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash 2012 (Mar. 31, 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.


M172: How many anacondas does it take to reach the moon? An Introduction to Length Scales and the Metric System in Splash 2012 (Mar. 31, 2012)
You probably have a good idea how far your house is from your school, how many songs fit on your iPod, and how much your cat weighs. But how to we get an intuitive feeling for really big or really small things? How many Willis Towers would you have to stack to reach the bottom of the Pacific Ocean? How many germs can fit onto one key on your keyboard? How much does a blue whale's tongue weigh in baby elephants? How many buckets of paint does it take to cover the Golden Gate Bridge? In this interactive class, we'll learn how to think about really big and really small distances, weights, and volumes in terms of things we already know. By the end of the class, you'll develop an intuitive understanding of what abstract numbers and units mean.


E13: Sensational Failures in Engineering in Splash 2010 (Apr. 03, 2010)
Exploding space shuttles, exploding Ford Pintos, exploding naval guns... Designs fail, and they sometimes fail catastrophically. Explosions (and collapses, crashes, and others form of destruction) result occasionally when complex engineering is implemented. This course covers the technical missteps behind some famous engineering disasters as well as the complex interactions between engineers and management that allow preventable disasters to happen.