ASU course dissects morality, rhetoric through Lincoln's speeches

ASU students to reflect on moral, political issues that shaped US history by engaging with Lincoln’s writings

October 17, 2022

Abraham Lincoln is revered by many as one of America’s most outstanding political leaders. His vision, speeches and guidance throughout the country’s most devastating conflict have shaped the nation and still impact us today. What can we learn from his speeches, writings and actions today?

A course offered to Arizona State University students in spring 2023 will focus on Lincoln’s rhetoric, thought and leadership. In CEL 394 Class #34883 — held during Session C, from 9 to 10:15 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, on the Tempe campus — undergraduates will utilize Lincoln’s writings and speeches to follow how the 16th president of the United States dealt with some of the thorniest issues of his time. Black-and-white portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Students can now enroll in in the spring 2023 course Lincoln: Rhetoric, Thought, Statesmanship.

For example, his speeches covering the growing conflict over slavery in the 1850s; his approach in his first inaugural address, with the nation on the verge of civil war; his broad conception of executive power during wartime; and his message in his second inaugural address, after Americans had been warring with each other for years.

By reading primary sources and sharing their reactions and questions, students will strive together to understand Lincoln’s thought, actions, rhetoric and political context. For Zachary German, assistant professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the course offers insight into how we think about America, political life and leadership today. 

Beyond a historical interest in this political figure, the questions presented by this course will invite students to reflect on the fundamental issues of moral principles, politics, constitutionalism and leadership.

ASU News spoke with German about what students should expect from this course and how studying Lincoln’s texts can help shed light on today’s complex issues.

Question: Which texts will students read in Lincoln: Rhetoric, Thought, Statesmanship?

Answer: Students will dive into Lincoln’s most significant speeches and writings, from the Perpetuation Address in 1838 to his second inaugural address in 1865. Throughout the semester, we will think rigorously about the ideas, arguments, rhetoric and context of these texts, but we will also have opportunities to examine speeches and writings of some of Lincoln’s contemporaries, such as the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and Lincoln’s political rival Stephen Douglas.  

ASU  seated at the front of a class, speaking while holding a book.

Assistant Professor Zachary German

Q: What are the main elements of this course?

A: Rhetoric involves what statesmen say and how they say it. Thought refers to, of course, the way in which statesmen think and the principles they hold. Statesmanship alludes to the actions that statesmen take, flowing from their thought and including their rhetoric. Lincoln will serve as our case study for thinking through each dimension of statesmanship.

Q: Why should an undergraduate student consider taking this course in 2023?

A: Students who take this course will enhance their ability to think carefully about challenging and important issues of political life and leadership – for example, the relationship between moral principles and the practical limits of politics, the relationship between being willing to compromise and standing firm by your convictions, the relationship between favoring harmony and accepting conflict, and the balance that leaders must strike between shaping public opinion and being constrained by it. Students should leave this course with a better sense of who they want to be as leaders and what they want their leaders to be like. 

Q: Who should consider taking this course?

A: This is a course for aspiring leaders who want to consider the characteristics and challenges of leadership in the U.S. constitutional order and in a democratic society more generally. It’s also a course for students who want to become more reflective citizens by thinking more deeply about liberty, equality, constitutionalism, democracy and union. Furthermore, it’s a course for students eager to expand their civic education by learning more about this prominent figure and critical period of American history.  

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


New gas separation method improves sustainability of product production

ASU researchers developing organic membranes with nanopores to improve industrial efficiency

October 17, 2022

Did you know that the synthetic fibers of your clothing or the plastic packaging of your snacks start as petroleum?

Getting petroleum to a point that it can be used in product production, petroleum refining or in the petrochemical industry all requires a labor-intensive process that uses gases. Photo illustration inspired by the structure of covalent organic frameworks, featuring several hexagonal forms stacked atop each other.. An illustration inspired by the structure of covalent organic frameworks that Arizona State University researchers Kailong Jin and Jerry Lin are working to develop into membranes. Image courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU/Midjourney Download Full Image

These industries need to separate ethylene, propane and xylene isomers, whose molecular sizes are usually less than one nanometer in diameter, which is incredibly small. A millimeter, for example, is made up of one million nanometers. These molecules are conventionally separated from each other by distillation or other energy-intensive thermal processes, but ASU researchers are developing a more energy-efficient, membrane-based molecular separation process.

Kailong Jin leads a research group as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation-funded research project to develop membranes with pores smaller than one nanometer, which would separate the molecular gas or vapor mixtures from each other.

Jin’s focus is on developing a nanoporous material for the membranes. The experimental material is a polymer base called a covalent organic framework, sometimes referred to as a COF.

The membranes will reduce thermal energy used and carbon emissions produced during molecular separation.

Covalent organic frameworks are a type of crosslinked polymers that exhibit a crystalline structure; this means they are uniform in their atomic arrangement and stable in their behavior. Crystalline materials often have regular structures that are predictable based on their building blocks, making them ideal for experimentation where other variables will change systematically, in this case the pore size of the membrane. A COF has a regular pore size structure that can be manipulated: tuned from 0.5 nanometers all the way up to 5 nanometers.

Using different pore sizes, one can separate materials by design. For example, to separate gas molecules that measure 0.5 nanometers from those that measure 0.6 nanometers, the pore size must be tuned to 0.55 nanometers. The molecule that is 0.5 nanometers will pass through the membrane, while the molecule that is 0.6 nanometers will be unable to. 

A graphic illustrating the gas separation process, in which gas molecules of the appropriate size pass through the covalent organic framework membrane and its polymer support.

Illustration of the gas separation process, in which gas molecules of the appropriate size pass through the stacked covalent organic framework membrane and its polymer support. Image courtesy Kailong Jin

The challenge of Jin’s work is that the covalent organic framework materials are not easily usable for manufacturing, as they typically come in the form of a powder. In order to separate molecules from each other, the membrane material must be in the form of a sheet that gases are forced through.

Jin’s research group has developed a new method to synthesize these COF membrane sheets. The powdered materials can be first exfoliated and then assembled into a membrane sheet by a scalable filtration coating method. The method disperses and suspends these exfoliated COF sheets in a solution, then uses another filtration process to deposit these COF sheets onto the support substrate, which creates an integrated membrane. Once this integrated membrane is complete, it can separate tiny gas molecules.

ASU Regents Professor Jerry Lin, co-primary investigator of the NSF grant project, will then test the gas separation performance of the synthesized COF membranes. Currently, the research is focused on separating gases ethylene, propane and xylene isomers used in industries such as petroleum refining. Products derived from petrochemicals are used in building materials, paint, packaging, clothing and medical equipment.

The gaseous mixture is separated for downstream chemical reactions or other applications. Once the process is fine-tuned, the membranes could be used in industries far beyond petroleum refining.

Two doctoral students, Richard Nile and Jose Cazares, are now working on a COF-related material for liquid and gas separation research, under the guidance of Jin and Lin. The NSF grant will allow them to add one or two additional student researchers. The added help will expedite the development of their COF membrane, improving the energy efficiency of manufacturing methods as quickly as possible in the race against climate change.

Hayley Hilborn

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering