Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering Pulse: News and Views
Much of Nicholas Carter’s family is originally from the Boise area; however, Nicholas’ service with the military, and, in his words, “being a military brat,” has allowed him to live in over twenty different locations! He chose to apply for admission at Boise State after leaving the military so he could return to Boise, the place he truly calls home. He already knew that Boise State was renowned for its materials science and engineering (MSE) program and he thought it would be a great fit for him. He was right! Nicholas is now working toward his bachelor of science degree and is gaining valuable lab experience while he is at it.
Life Before Boise State
Nicholas’ quest for higher education began way before his military career. After high school, Nicholas was admitted to Colorado State University to study computer science. He transferred to Boise State shortly thereafter, and changed his major to business-finance. It did not take long for Nick to learn that immersing into a well-rounded college experience while working full-time is quite a challenge. Because of this, he decided to stop taking classes and enter the workforce. Nicholas concluded that higher level employment opportunities were hard to obtain without a college degree or prior experience, so he joined the military to broaden his future employment prospects.
Military life often offers some pretty unique learning opportunities. Nicholas attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California during his time serving our country. He studied Pashtu, which is an Indo-Iranian language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A few years later he took advanced Pashtu courses at the National Security Agency and is now quite fluent in the language.
Discovering Materials Science and Engineering
Nicholas wanted to go back to school after his career with the military, but was not sure which major would work best. He had tried computer science and business before he went into the military but now he was sure he wanted to focus on some kind of engineering. Most universities offer a variety of engineering disciplines: electrical, mechanical, chemical, there are a lot of choices. Then he came across some information about materials science and engineering. Materials science focuses of studying, designing, and engineering new materials. It incorporates many aspects of physics, chemistry, and other engineering disciplines and, for Nicholas, that breadth was very appealing.
He was also interested in photovoltaics and energy storage and Boise State is well known for leading the science and research on these topics. Photovoltaics is the study of converting light into electricity and possible power sources for the future. This major seemed perfect for him! Looking back at his decision, Nicholas said, “Sometimes materials science and engineering is labeled as the jack of all trades of engineering and I am very much a person who is a jack of all trades and a master of none.” When Nicholas’ contract with the military ended, he applied and was accepted to Boise State to study Materials Science and Engineering. Thus far, he considers it to be a great experience. Nicholas says that his teachers challenge him to excel in class and in the lab.
Learning by Doing
Nicholas is gaining some valuable hands-on experience in a research lab while he completes his coursework. He is currently researching corrosion rates of heat treated bearing steels for the aviation industry. Various turbine bearings of different compositions are usually heat treated using several different methods. Working with Dr. Mike Hurley, Nicholas is helping to determine corrosion rates for these metals using electrochemical testing. They conduct Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) and AnodicPolarization (AP) on the samples and analyze the resulting data. The plan is to complete more characterization using different microscopy in order to predict corrosion rates before electrochemically testing the materials.
Nicholas spent the summer working on another project that electrochemically deposits DNA origami structures onto boron implanted silicon substrates. This process may provide an improved technique for patterning wafers for the semiconductor industry. After running many experiments and demonstrating success, Nicholas proposed continuing the research in his senior project class. Instructors and sponsors agreed that this project has great potential for future impact. Nicholas is now working with a group of students on improving this technique. They will present their research findings at the annual College of Engineering Senior Project Showcase in May.
Nicholas plans to further his education by applying for a master’s degree at Boise State but is eager to go to work in the field of materials science and engineering as well.
We asked Nicholas what he might recommend to current and prospective students to help promote their success. He said “Come on in! Boise State has a great program and, if you apply yourself, you will do very well. Also, try to get involved with research as soon as possible. You will learn a lot more in the lab compared to just taking classes alone. The practical hands on experience in a lab will be of great benefit when looking for a job later.”
Carolyn Stansell, Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering Alum (B.S. 2014) was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. While in high school, she was active in musicals, choir, and the swim team. Growing up in a city where music is prominent, Carolyn developed a fondness for the arts. When considering higher education, she focused on selecting a university that offered great academics and an excellent music program where she could stay immersed in one of her favorite endeavors. Carolyn discovered that Boise State met those criteria and offered even more than she expected. Being a Seattle resident, Carolyn was an out-of-state student at Boise State. As is typical at most universities, out-of-state tuition fees can be high. Carolyn was grateful to learn that Boise State offers merit-based scholarships for non-resident students. Receiving a Gem scholarship saved Carolyn more than $12,000 per year on tuition fees!
Materials science and engineering is a multidisciplinary field that spans many fields like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, and chemistry. The opportunity arose for Carolyn to experience this multidisciplinary approach by joining Electrical Engineering Professor Kris Campbell’s research group. Projects included synthesizing bulk chalcogenide glass, evaluating titanium-doped germanium and selenide thin films using Raman spectroscopy, and analyzing the Raman spectra using IGOR software.
Carolyn graduated in 2014 with Magna Cum Laude honors, a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering, a Minor in Physics, and valuable hands-on multidisciplinary research experience. She also graduated with numerous job opportunities and a solid resume. Carolyn accomplished these impressive endeavors while still developing her interest in the arts. She was a member of the Boise State choir for four years and was happy to find balance between music and engineering throughout her time at Boise State.
Life After a Great College Experience
Carolyn’s first job after graduating was with AECOM, a global network that helps develop and implement innovative solutions like building skyscrapers, planning new cities, and restoring damaged environments. This was a fabulous career opportunity; however, Carolyn was truly interested in the nuclear sector. She credits her Boise State senior project class experience for sparking that interest. In senior project, students form work groups to solve engineering problems. Carolyn’s group collaborated with the Idaho National Laboratory on their project which involved finding a ceramic material compatible with a corrosive metal/salt mixture and finding a method of extracting the salt from the metal. The overall goal of the project was to develop a process to separate and purify electro-refined uranium fuel rods from ternary salt solutions via liquid vapor separation methods.
While browsing job opportunities at the Idaho National Laboratory, Carolyn found an opportunity at the Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation in Summerville, SC. She is currently serving as a crew training engineer and is responsible for training naval personnel to operate nuclear reactors on nuclear submarines and warships.
Boise State Memories
Carolyn fondly remembers her Kinetics class with Dr. Megan Frary. She worked with Dr. Frary on creating Jeopardy videos for extra credit. Students used these videos to study for the final exam. Carolyn looks back on the many learning opportunities offered in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering with great pride and gratitude. “Engineering can seem like a more rigid field,” says Carolyn; however, she was able to blend her engineering education with other experiences like music and laboratory research. “The Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate program is a great corner stone and building block to start creating a meaningful foundation for your future.”
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Tony Varghese, a graduate student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering received a best poster award and cash prize at the 36th annual International Conference on Thermoelectrics (ICT 2017) in Pasadena, CA. The conference featured 338 poster presentations from all over the world and gathered approximately 1500 individuals for a cutting-edge research exchange on thermoelectric technologies.
Additive Manufacturing of Flexible Thermoelectric Devices – Creating a Competitive Energy Conversion Technology
Tony’s research focuses on finding ways to manufacture high performing, cost effective, flexible thermoelectric generators that can supply power for a variety of sensors. The synthesis and optimization of inorganic nano-ink for screen printing processes is the catalyst for making this happen. This technology can be used to recover waste heat energy and directly convert it into electrical energy, with no moving parts involved. This energy can be as small as the amount of heat produced by natural biological processes in the human body to as large as the heat energy released from nuclear power plants. Tony changes the electronic and thermal transport properties of thermoelectric material in the ink by using different additives to achieve optimal performance. An aerosol jet printer and high energy pulsed light sintering are used for roll-to- roll manufacturing of flexible thermoelectric devices from these inks. The result is the potential to create real-world solutions to everyday issues. One example is a self-powered sensor that can monitor human vital signs and wirelessly transmit data to an interface device. Used in this manner, self-powered sensors can continually monitor critical life signs.
Tony’s research may provide a staggering 90% decrease in the manufacturing cost of thermoelectric materials. “My ultimate goal is to establish a low cost, high performing additive manufacturing process for flexible thermoelectric devices. A cost reduction along with increased performance would make thermoelectric material very competitive as an energy conversion technology,” says Varghese.
Collaboration Facilitates Success
As a graduate student, Tony has learned that collaboration is key. Participating in the International Conference on Thermoelectrics allowed him to establish new contacts as well as put faces to the names he recognized from reading journal papers. “It was interesting to learn there are other people working on the same research. Talking with them helped me find solutions for some of the research challenges I currently face. Some researchers were even willing to give ideas that may improve my process so I can obtain better results,”said Tony. “Conference participation also helped to establish a couple of new collaborations with other universities.”
Tony collaborates with University of Houston Professor Zhifeng Ren’s research group and Washington State University Professor Rahul Panat’s research group for manufactured nanopowders and intense light pulse sintering. He also collaborates with ThermoAura, a nanomaterials and clean energy company that manufactures thermoelectric nanocrystals, which Tony uses for his research.
About Tony Varghese
Tony received an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Mahatma Gandhi University in India and a master of science in nanoscience and technology from the National Institute of Technology in India. He spent a year working as a research student in the Polymer and Special Chemical Division at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO,) where his primary focus was synthesis of graphene and graphene polymer nanocomposites for satellite applications. Tony was admitted to Boise State in 2014 and is currently conducting research in the Boise State Advanced Nanomaterial and Manufacturing Laboratory (ANML) with Dr. David Estrada. He also works closely with his co-advisor Dr. Yanliang Zhang from the University of Notre Dame.
Tony’s International Conference on Thermoelectrics best poster award was an “aha” moment. He realized that information exchange is a vital part of advancing research. Tony gained a new appreciation for discussing his research while finding out about other researchers’ techniques at the same time. While presenting at ICT was his first time speaking in front of a large audience, Tony also received a best poster nomination at the Materials Research Society Spring Meeting in April 2017. Expertise in his field of research allows Tony to present his findings with confidence. Tony plans to further develop his research, which he will present at upcoming professional conferences.
Summer Research at the Nation’s Capital
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) formed in 1901 and is one of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories. NIST was established to identify standards and measurements in physical science for the overall security of the American economy and way of life. Electric power grids, electronic health records, computer chips, and dozens of other innovations rely on the measurements and standards provided by NIST.
Boise State engineering students have participated in an excellent summer undergraduate research fellowship (NIST SURF) for the past four years in a row. The 11-week internship program provides students with hands-on research experience. This year, Sierra Ludwig, Addie Lupercio, Justina Freilich, Brady Garringer, Riccardo Torsi, Alondra Perez, and Shamith Payagala underwent a highly competitive application process to be granted the fantastic opportunity to conduct summer research at the NIST Gaithersburg facility, just outside Washington, D.C. They are studying a wide range of topics including the arrangement of water molecules, molecular dynamics, fingerprint tests, electronic measurements, and fiber-optic cables. SURF participants work closely with resident scientists and fellows. These student-mentor relationships enable undergraduates to get the best quality hands on experience and guidance in preparation for an innovative and exciting career.
What have our Students been up to at NIST?
We heard from some of the bright minds representing Boise State at NIST this summer. Here is what they had to say about their SURF experience:
- “This summer was both challenging and incredibly fun. I gained new skills, made new friends, and had awesome experiences. I also got to work under amazing scientists and learn from them. I am so glad I got to be a part of this program and I would recommend it to anyone!”- Addie Lupercio.
- “The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has provided an opportunity for me to contribute to important areas of research with scientists who lead in their field. I have gained skills and experience in programming, characterization, data analysis, and technical writing and presenting. The SURF program has also fostered professional and personal relationships with students and scientists from disciplines across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It has been a joy to work at such an innovative and important institute this summer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making friends from across the country and exploring the east coast.” – Justina Freilich
- “This summer I worked with the Structures Group in the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. My project was an exploratory project to investigate using distributed fiber optic networks for long-term structural health monitoring. We used fiber optic cables with etched Fiber Bragg Gratings embedded into concrete to detect temperature, relative humidity, and strain. In addition to my project I’ve been able to do a lot 3D modeling work and even some 3D printing!”- Sierra Ludwig
Get Involved with NIST SURF
Since 2013, eighteen Boise State students have participated in the NIST SURF program. Fifteen are Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering undergrads. Learn more about NIST. Applications are typically due in January of each year. Contact Dr. Lan Li if you’re interested in applying for the next summer program!
Twinkle Pandhi, a graduate student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering received a student travel award and a second-place poster award at the 2017 FLEX Conference, the nation’s leading forum for flexible, printed, and hybrid electronics technology. The conference hosted over 26 technical sessions and featured international presenters who share the common goal of creating faster, smarter, and more economical electronic devices for everyday use.
Printed and Flexible Electronics – The Future of Electronic Devices
Twinkle’s research focuses on understanding the physics behind power dissipation in aerosol jet printed graphene interconnects. Power dissipation relates current flow to voltage in electronic devices, which can lead to severe internal temperature increases. Power dissipation is a limiting factor in current silicon based computer processors. This is why laptops can heat up significantly, requiring innovative cooling technologies to prevent serious burns. New materials such as graphene have shown potential to improve the efficiency of electronic devices by reducing the temperature rise associated with power dissipation. “To our knowledge, Twinkle’s research represents the first study of power dissipation in printed graphene interconnects,” said Dr. Dave Estrada, Twinkle’s graduate advisor and co-director of the Boise State Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory. “Understanding the limiting factors in power dissipation of printed graphene may help expedite the adoption of this material in flexible and printed electronics applications, particularly if it can be printed in a roll-to-roll fashion.”
Collaborative Research Leads to New Innovations
Twinkle continues to conduct her award-winning research in collaboration with the PrintTronics Research Group at Air Force Research Laboratories led by Dr. Emily Heckman, NASA Scientist Dr. Jessica Koehne of the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames Research Center, and Assistant Professor Feng Xiong’s group in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh. The team’s diverse expertise allows a comprehensive approach to research that encompasses materials synthesis and characterization, device fabrication and characterization, and multiphysics modeling. This method of collaborative research has led to new insights that demonstrate the effects of materials structure, properties, and processing on the performance of printed graphene devices. Printed graphene devices have dozens of potential uses such as touch screens in consumer electronics, wearable and stretchable biosensors for monitoring hydration and stress, and environmental monitoring systems for managing the condition of temperature sensitive inventory such as agricultural products and pharmaceuticals.
About Twinkle Pandhi
Twinkle received an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2015, she enrolled in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering graduate program. Ms. Pandhi is a valued graduate research assistant in the Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory which is co-directed by Dr. David Estrada of the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering and Dr. Harish Subbaraman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Twinkle continues her collaborative research on printing two-dimensional materials and devices over a summer internship at the Center for Nanotechnology at NASA Ames Research Center.
Twinkle has discovered that presenting research at technical conferences is an excellent method for building a professional network. “The Flex Conference was truly a valuable experience for me,” said Ms. Pandhi. “I was really amazed to see the cohesiveness between industries and universities in creating a resourceful environment for emerging flexible and printed technology.” Twinkle’s poster award and her drive to continue discovering new technologies confirm that she is on the right track. She has also presented her findings at the Materials Research Society’s 2017 Electronic Materials Conference and plans to present further research advances at upcoming conferences.