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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering News

Dr. Claire Xiong Promotes STEM Education with an NSF CAREER Award

Claire and Traci

Claire Xiong, assistant professor in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering is reaching out to local youth. Dr. Xiong recently received a prestigious NSF CAREER award aimed at boosting student interest in STEM fields and building energy literacy in youth at non-school settings. In support of these goals, Dr. Xiong recently collaborated with Boise State University’s Service Learning Program to introduce STEM to the Girl Scouts of Silver Sage.

Service Learning Promotes Community Relations

The Boise State Service Learning Program connects classrooms with the community through capacity-building partnerships. These connections enhance student learning, address critical community issues, and encourage students to be active citizens in their local, national, and global communities.

Dr. Xiong’s service learning project involved Boise State students enrolled in her materials for energy sustainability course. Students developed a deeper understanding of energy sustainability by creating interactive group projects and presenting them to the Girl Scouts. By the end of the course, students realized their role in the community and learned that they can have a positive impact on our youth.

Hands-on Projects Promote STEM

The Girl Scouts participated in hands-on projects to discover the important role of materials in solving the most critical problem of our time: sustainable energy. Participants discovered how advanced functional materials play a role in the creation of windmills, solar cells, and hydropower. They also learned about the process of identifying materials that might have less environmental impact. A key take-away was their discovering how to retrieve the information necessary to propose their own solutions to material-related problems. Stimulating this level of confidence promotes curiosity in STEM and is an important factor in educating tomorrow’s workforce.

Does hands-on experimentation have an impact? The Girl Scouts, troop leaders, and parents seem to think so. With the initial goal of earning a Girl Scout badge, the Scouts created things like solar cells and slime during this service learning project. When asked about the one thing she learned about solar power, a Scout said, “You can make electricity out of blackberry juice!” Another participant said, “My favorite activity was about wind power because we got to create a windmill.” In the end, earning a badge was one important outcome; however, it was clear that the Girl Scouts also learned that science is fun. “Rarely have I seen my daughter so engaged,” said one parent. Troop leaders, parents, and Scouts are already looking forward to collaborating with Boise State on future hands-on STEM activities.

Undergraduate Student Nick Carter

Nick Carter

Much of Nick Carter’s family is originally from the Boise area; however, Nick’s service with the military and, in his words, “being a military brat,” has allowed him to live in over twenty different locations. He applied for admission at Boise State University 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 might be a great fit for him. Nick is now working toward his bachelor of science in materials science and engineering and is gaining valuable lab experience at the same time.

Life Before Boise State

Nick’s quest for higher education began way before his military career. After high school, he was admitted to Colorado State University to study computer science. Nick 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. He decided to stop taking classes and enter the workforce. Nick 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 opportunities.

Military life offers some unique learning opportunities. For example, Nick 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 courses at the National Security Agency and is now fluent in the language.

Serving our country can also introduce some unique challenges when it comes to immersing into life outside of the military. Many veterans feel a strong sense of camaraderie with fellow veterans, but may feel like they don’t belong in civilian life. As non-traditional students, many veterans view college as something outside of their lifestyle. Identifying social networks is vital to creating a sense of belonging. Finding resources that encourage veterans’ use of the GI Bill and other military benefits makes a significant difference in their transitioning into life after the military. Nick has successfully navigated these challenges and is now supporting fellow veterans so they can thrive in higher education.

Discovering Materials Science and Engineering

Nick’s goal after his military career was to continue his education. He had majored in computer science and business before he enlisted, but wanted to focus instead on some kind of engineering. Materials science and engineering focuses on researching, designing, and engineering new materials. It incorporates many aspects of physics, chemistry, and other engineering disciplines, which was appealing. “Sometimes materials science and engineering is labeled as the jack of all trades of engineering. I am very much a jack of all trades and a master of none,” says Nick. The opportunity to conduct research in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering allows Nick to master his varied interests in the sciences.

Learning by Doing

Nick is gaining some valuable hands-on experience in a research lab while he completes his bachelor of science degree. He is currently researching corrosion rates of heat-treated bearing steels for the aviation industry. Turbine bearings are often composed of various heat-treated metals. Working with Dr. Mike Hurley, Nick is using electrochemical testing to help determine corrosion rates for these metals. 

Nick has also gained experience with electrochemically depositing DNA origami structures onto boron implanted silicon substrates. This process may provide an improved technique for patterning wafers for the semiconductor industry. Nick proposed continuing this research in his senior project class and is now working with a group of students to further develop the process. The student research group will present their findings at the annual College of Engineering Senior Project Showcase in May.

Encouraging Involvement

Nick remains involved with the military by working with the Veterans Services program. Boise State partners with Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE,) a Military Support Programs and Services (M-SPAN) initiative. PAVE is a peer–to-peer program that connects incoming student veterans attending college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill with successful student veterans. Nick is happy to support his fellow veterans as a peer advisor. Based on his own experiences with military life and transitioning into higher education, Nick is able to provide solid guidance and ongoing support to incoming student veterans. We asked Nick what he recommends to current and prospective student veterans to promote their success. He said “Boise State has a great materials science and engineering program and, if you apply yourself, you will do very well. Try to get involved with research as soon as possible. You will learn a lot more in the lab compared to just taking classes.  The practical hands-on lab experience will be of great benefit when looking for a job later.”


Carolyn Stansell – Bachelor of Science Alum 2014

Carolyn StansellCarolyn 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!

Exploring Research

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.”

Alumni – Keep in Touch!

We are seeking contact with all MSMSE alumni. Complete this quick questionnaire and we will email you a draft write-up for your review and approval before posting. Send photos to Dena Ross, MSMSE program and marketing manager Stay in touch and let us know where you are now.

Graduate Student Tony Varghese 2017 International Conference on Thermoelectrics Best Poster Awardee

Tony Varghese

Picture courtesy – Meriya Sanchez

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 2017 NIST Scholars

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!