Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering Pulse: News and Views
Can you imagine printing a sheet of plastic that covers its own cost by converting sunlight into electricity within a few days? It’s entirely possible if printing technologies can fabricate high-efficiency organic photovoltaics (OPVs). Dr. Jankowski, assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering leads the Computational Materials Engineering Laboratory (CMELab) at Boise State. The group researches new materials that create sustainable energy sources. Particularly, they research methods for arranging molecules to give carbon-based advanced materials desired properties. Dr. Jankowski received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant for his research into methods that create greener environments.
An NSF CAREER Grant Supports Green Research
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of faculty members who integrate effective research and teaching. Dr. Jankowski’s CAREER award is supporting his research on transforming methods by which organic photovoltaic solar cells are made. The building-block materials used to develop OPVs are abundant and could enhance production of inexpensive solar panels. OPVs can be applied to curved or flexible surfaces that are hard to accommodate with silicon-based solar technologies. This would enable easier solar panel integration into fabrics or even vehicles. Ultimately, OPVs could provide an economical electricity alternative at a lower cost than current solar technologies.
“I’m enormously grateful for NSF’s support through the CAREER award and humbled to be included among its recipients,” Dr. Jankowski said. “This award will provide sustained graduate student support so we can take our preliminary plastic solar material studies to the next level. I’m so excited for the science this is going to make possible.”
Discovering Pathways to Efficient Alternative Power Sources
Dr. Jankowski’s research will focus on improving the simulation techniques for predicting OPV nano-structures. Improving simulation techniques will allow researchers to uncover the nano-structures of ingredient mixtures needed to create OPVs. Dr. Jankowski and his team can then learn more about the fabrication process and discover pathways to increasingly efficient power sources. He and his students plan to collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to make and test the plastic solar cells predicted by their research. According to Jankowski,”No other single advance will as broadly improve the health, security, and opportunity for global citizens as these inexpensive, accessible power sources. These power sources will fuel alternative energy development while mitigating climate change.” Students involved in this project will use computational materials science to solve challenges related to low-cost energy alternatives, giving them a leading edge in obtaining high-tech jobs.
Joe Croteau – Master of Science Alum 2016
Joe was born and raised in Juneau, AK, where environmental stewardship and conservation are a daily part of life. During his final year of high school, he participated in an experimental curriculum called the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (ACE) Academy. Through ACE, Joe helped to establish several internship programs with local, private and governmental engineering firms. It was his interest in green energy technology and his passion for cars and motorcycles that led him to pursue an education in automotive design. He enrolled at the Vehicle Design Institute, which is a part of the Plastics Engineering Department at Western Washington University. Joe learned about the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering at Boise State partly because of its extraordinary value. He saw the potential to have greater access to world-class professors at a much more affordable cost. Boise State’s beautiful campus also has the feel of a small town community with big city amenities and immediate access to nature. For these reasons, Joe transferred to Boise State to complete his bachelor of science. He was encouraged to continue his studies and he graduated in 2016 with a master of science.
The Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering provided Joe the opportunity to pursue his interest in lightweight structural materials and materials for low-carbon energy production. He was able to collaborate with researchers throughout the region and all across the United States while conducting research in the Advanced Materials Group with Dr. Darryl Butt and Dr. Brian Jaques. These excellent hands-on experiences prepared Joe for a great career
What is Joe Up to Now?
After graduating in 2016, Joe was offered a position as a materials engineer at NanoAI, LLC, a Chicago-area technology company that designs and develops high-performance aluminum alloys. He is currently leading research to design and develop aluminum alloy compositions specifically tailored for additive manufacturing (3D-Printing.) Joe is involved in every stage of the process from basic scientific research to product development and marketing. The Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering prepared Joe for this excellent career opportunity by offering experience on a broad range of state of the art equipment for materials processing. Computational materials science is embedded in the curriculum, which allowed Joe to gain well-rounded experience in materials modeling and theory. A significant added value was having relevant and collaborative research projects with other universities, national labs, government agencies, and industry partners. The opportunity to interact with local business and community leaders, and to work with members of the global scientific community allowed Joe to broaden his network. Boise State also offers complimentary courses in business, policy, and education that provided Joe a well-rounded approach to solving research challenges.
How can YOU Succeed in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering?
Any prospective student should check out what the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering has to offer. Joe says the Program is like a tightly-knit family. “Whatever you’re passionate about, academically or otherwise, you will find someone in the department who shares that passion,” said Joe. He added that, “whatever it is that makes you unique, the program is supportive and collaborative. It is clear to me that Boise State and the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering encourage diversity. They understand that diversity is necessary for a holistic approach to education and is essential to finding scientific and engineering solutions for the issues that effect Idaho and society as a whole.”
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Opportunities, Knowledge, Fun!
Bachelor of Science Student Profile
Addie Lupercio grew up in Eagle, Idaho and spent a majority of her summers hanging out in Boise or camping in the back country of Idaho. When she first started school at Boise State, Addie was a nursing major but switched to Materials Science and Engineering after a year. Her first chemistry class inspired her interest in Materials Science. The professor for that class was a chemical engineer who talked to her about the benefits of the program and recommended she pursue a degree in this field.
Involvement Creates Opportunities
Addie recognizes that involvement inside and outside the classroom allows her to gain the leadership and problem-solving experience needed in today’s job market. Participating in community service and extra-curricular activities that promote STEM is also a great way for her to focus on time management. Addie serves as the vice president of the MSE Club where she is responsible for coordinating STEM events in the community such as Aerospace Day and the Engineering and Science Festival.
She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and is involved with the Society of Women Engineers. Addie is also the outreach coordinator for the Micro-Gravity Team at Boise State, a NASA sponsored undergraduate research team. In Fall 2016, the Team’s proposal for a tool that NASA could use in micro-gravity was accepted. They are now hard at work building this tool and will test it in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston later this spring. This project and other outreach opportunities facilitate great educational experiences for students of all ages.
Hands-On Research Experience Creates Knowledge
As a student in the MSMSE undergraduate program, Addie has the opportunity to conduct research in a state-of-the-art materials lab. She is currently conducting research on half-Heusler materials for use as thermoelectric generators. The goal of the project is to develop wireless sensor nodes for applications in nuclear energy.
Addie helps make the necessary materials and conducts characterization of these materials pre and post-irradiation. When she graduates with her bachelor of science degree, Addie intends to pursue graduate school at Boise State or another university so she can then pursue a career in researching materials for nuclear energy.
Sage Advice Creates a Fun Undergrad Experience
Addie’s biggest recommendation to current and prospective students is to be ready to take advantage of all the resources that the MSMSE program has to offer. Students should do their best to participate in undergraduate research. There are so many opportunities available to help students get started in research and the MSMSE offers a variety of materials-related specialties. Not sure what kind of research is best? The staff and faculty in the MSMSE program are very friendly and helpful so take advantage of the help and guidance they can offer.
Graduate Student Profile
Evan Smith is originally from Southern California, where he completed his first two years of undergraduate coursework at a community college. He enrolled in the undergraduate program at Boise State in Fall 2014, majoring in Applied Mathematics. One of the most significant reasons for Evan’s choosing Boise State was the location. He absolutely loves the weather and variety of outdoor activities here in Boise.
Evan was looking for an internship at the beginning of his senior year so he attended the Boise State Career and Graduate School Fair to see what opportunities were available. He happened to drop by the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSMSE) graduate program information booth and learned more about graduate school opportunities. Evan was convinced that the Program was right for him so he applied for admission.
Evan was accepted to the MSMSE Ph.D. Program in Fall 2016. The Program has helped Evan develop great research and professional skills. Faculty and staff have encouraged him to apply for grants and they help him with the grant writing process. The Albertsons Library also offers some amazing materials science resources, which are extremely helpful for Evan’s research.
Evan’s research involves creating mathematical models from empirical data generated from lab experiments, and then studying the models to find trends and similarities. What he enjoys most is that he can use his math background to complete the research. He also appreciates the opportunity to create chemicals in the lab and then computationally model them. He adds, “I really like getting my hands dirty in the lab.”
Evan chose materials science and engineering because, as he commented, “Engineering is just so heavily related to math that I figured I might as well get a math degree. Then if I ever come back to do any engineering work or enroll in grad school and major in engineering, my background in math would be helpful. My goal after grad school is get hired locally. I really want to stay here!”
Evan recommends that prospective students connect with professors with whom they are most interested in working before applying to the program. Doing so helps students find out more about the many different materials related research opportunities that exist. He also recommends applying for admission as early as possible to allow plenty of time to for the review process.
MSMSE Associate Professor Rick Ubic Receives the Boise State Foundation Scholars Award for Research and Creative Activity
The prestigious Foundation Scholar Awards honor Boise State faculty who have demonstrated ongoing commitment, expertise and accomplishments in teaching, research and creative activity, or professionally related service. The award includes a $3,000 honorarium from the Foundation for each scholar. In addition, their names will be added to the display showing all recipients of the Foundation Scholar Awards since 1992. The display is located on the first floor of the Student Union Building near the main staircase.
Upon his arrival at Boise State in 2007, Rick formed the Functional Ceramics Group to study structure-property relationships in functional ceramics, serving both undergraduate and graduate students. He serves as the director of the Boise State Center for Materials Characterization, as well as director of the NSF-funded Research Experience (REU) for Undergraduates in Materials for Society. Dr. Ubic is known for his work on the structural evolution of nuclear graphite and recently has developed an empirical model that predicts structure and unit volume of perovskite ceramics. He has published 61 refereed journal articles and 24 conference proceedings, and given 24 invited presentations at international forums in 11 countries. In addition, he has received $4.3 million in external research funding. Dr. Ubic serves as secretary of the Electronics Division of the American Ceramic Society and is editor in chief of the Materials Research Bulletin.