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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering News

Undergraduate Student Riley Hunt

Materials Science, Lab, Photo by Allison Corona

Beyond The Degree

Bachelor of Science Student Profile

Riley Hunt is originally from Eagle, Idaho but spent a large amount of her time in and around the Boise area. She was admitted to the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering (MSMSE) undergraduate program in Fall 2013.

Riley took many advanced math and science courses in high school but never experienced particular courses in material science or engineering. Her sister graduated from Boise State in Spring 2013 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Inspired by her sister, Riley first thought about enrolling in mechanical engineering. Her own interest in math and science seemed to apply to this field as well. Ultimately, Riley made a last minute decision to dive into materials science and engineering (MSE.) When asked what inspired her to choose MSE, she said, “I really like how many fields MSE can apply to. You are really able to tailor the degree to what you want to do.”

Riley currently performs research with Dr. Claire Xiong in the Electrochemical Energy Lab. She helps prepare materials in coin cells that will eventually be used to improve lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery technology. Riley’s research is very particular when it comes to experimentation. In one experiment, she set out to create different types of anodes or cathodes. In regard to cathodes, she mixed different chemicals to form pellets that would form various types of cathodes. These electrodes are then placed inside small batteries and cycled so their performance can be observed.  In another experiment, she anodized titanium foils to create nanotubes for anodic surfaces. The ultimate goal of her research is to create batteries that last longer and are more cost effective.

Riley recently completed an internship at Micron Inc., in a manufacturing development group. She worked with the Performance of Chemical Vapor Deposition and Implant processes (PCVDI) Group, which monitors the performance of chemical vapor deposition (CVD,) physical vapor deposition (PVD,) and implant processes. Her main goal was to improve the reliability of some of these processes. To do this she pulled months of old manufacturing data and looked for historical variability (thickness, defect count, etc.) Using this data, she was able to design experiments to optimize the processes. After running the experiments, she would collect the new variability data and compile them into reports for management to review. Management would then suggest further improvements or authorize implementation of the recommended changes. In short, she used statistical analysis to optimize thin film deposition processes.

Riley acknowledges that a degree in materials science and engineering is not easy to obtain but, once you have it, you will be extremely prepared for the next steps in your career. She recommends connecting with professors as early as possible. Professors are invaluable resources who can help propel student participation in research, internships, and other on-campus opportunities. Riley’s professors let her know about opportunities that many students are not aware of, especially in their first two years of college.

Riley states that the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering has given her the opportunity to be involved with undergraduate research for the past three years, increasing her knowledge and experience with the industry. Her professors continue to push her to learn and care about what she is studying and working with. They constantly present opportunities in research, internships, or jobs that help prepare her for graduation and beyond.

Riley advises students to enjoy the university experience as much as possible because four years goes by way too fast. Riley plans to graduate in Spring 2017 and then spend a year or so working and saving funds while also applying for a Fulbright grant for a future Master’s degree in science education with an emphasis in textile technology. She plans to apply for other graduate opportunities as well. Her career goal is to be involved in the creation of sustainable and high performing sportswear in the textile industry.

Graduate Student Kayla Yano

Computational Materials Engineering Lab, Allison Corona photo.

Expanding Opportunities in Materials Science and Engineering

Graduate Student Profile

Kayla Yano graduated from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2011. Soon after, she went to work with Hewlett-Packard in the LaserJet Supplies group, where she especially enjoyed working in the Materials Science lab.

Kayla soon recognized that by furthering her education, she could create more opportunities for herself. With that in mind, she began looking for graduate programs that would allow her to explore possibilities.

Energy production was a field Kayla had long been interested in. In order to work toward careers in that field, she began researching nuclear materials programs. After discovering the work of Dr. Janelle Wharry, she applied and was accepted to the Radiation Materials Science Group in the Micron School of Materials Science at Boise State University.

When asked how the Materials Science graduate program has been crucial to her future prospects, Kayla replied, “It’s been a very important experience for me, leaving my job and starting research, getting back into classwork, it has all been a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and develop and conduct exciting research.”

As demand for energy continues to increase around the world, nuclear power is becoming increasingly important. The time required to test and certify new materials to be used in nuclear reactors can be long and slow. Improvements in this area would help meet the demand to build new, more efficient, and safer reactors.

Kayla’s research consists of testing small sized samples of irradiated materials to see if their micro-scale mechanical properties translate to predictable properties on an engineering-scale. Using micro-sized materials can reduce the time needed to irradiate nuclear reactors and can also reduce the risk of irradiation from large activated materials.

To characterize the mechanical properties of these micro-sized samples Kayla uses in situ TEM (transmission electron microscopy.) She takes bulk material, uses a FIB (focused-ion beam) to shape it into general mechanical testing shapes (pillars to be compressed, cantilever beams to be bent,) and collects data that can be used to find the yield strength, elastic modulus, and fracture toughness; all properties necessary to select which materials to use in reactors. Kayla has specifically been studying an iron-9%chromium ODS (oxide dispersion strengthened) steel.

The ultimate goal of Kayla’s research is to see if testing these candidate materials in situ TEM gives accurate mechanical properties of bulk materials so that we can save time and money in developing new materials for nuclear reactors.

Kayla presented part of her research at the annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society (ANS.) While initially anxious to present on such a large scale, her nerves were calmed by fellow graduate student Matthew Swenson, who assured her that public speaking wasn’t as big of a deal as commonly thought. Assuring herself that she knew her own work and research, she presented with no difficulty.

For prospective undergraduate and graduate students thinking about attending the Micron School of Material Science and Engineering, Kayla said, “Check out what’s out there and come visit Boise. It’s a beautiful town and the Micron School of Materials really has a feel that things are growing here and that some awesome research is being conducted. Boise State is doing some cool stuff and it’s definitely worth a look!”

Graduate Student Kevin Tolman

 Grad student Kevin Tolman working in materials science labBecoming a Leader in Science and Technology

One of the Many Reasons to Explore Materials Science and Engineering

Graduate assistant, Kevin Tolman is on a path to success. He realized early on that, in order to excel in the workforce, he needed to get an edge. That edge is an advanced degree. His primary objective is to expand his knowledge and experience in science and technology. As a graduate assistant in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, he is doing just that.

Kevin enlisted in the U.S. military after realizing that working at an average job might limit his career goals. One of the many military benefits is educational support. After serving, Kevin was given the opportunity to choose a university anywhere in the United States. He selected Boise State University for many reasons, including the family-friendly community, great opportunities for outdoor activities, and the smaller sized city with a big city feel.

Enrolling in the Ph.D. Program in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering was a pivotal experience for Kevin. Over the past four years, he has gained experience using high-powered x-ray diffraction and electron microscopes. He uses this valuable experience to conduct research on a particular class of ceramics called perovskites, which are widely used in electronics and devices. Kevin’s research is focused on identifying composition-structure relationships so that one day researchers and industry can predict the electrical properties of new materials. This research will be able to improve consumer products and promote a greener world.

Why Study Materials Science? Energy for a Greener World.

New Methods of Energy Storage…One of the Many Reasons to Explore Materials Science and Engineering

Image of Claire Xiong

Assistant Professor Claire Xiong is researching energy a greener world. Her primary objective is to develop nano-architectured electrode materials with precisely controlled properties to meet modern energy storage and conversion challenges. Dr. Xiong leads an interdisciplinary research group within the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering at Boise State University. The group’s research leverages electrochemistry, surface chemistry, and materials science and engineering to investigate energy storage options.

Meeting World Energy Demands

Surging world energy demands and diminishing reserves of fossil fuels have intensified the pursuit for green, high-performance, cost-effective, and sustainable energy storage. Batteries that store high-energy densities play a large role in the implementation of green energy technologies and non-petroleum based vehicle fuel. Lithium-ion batteries offer the highest energy density among present battery technologies; however, there are still challenges to be solved. There are limited lithium sources and cost, safety, and stability are all factors to consider. Alternative rechargeable energy storage systems other than lithium include sodium and magnesium, which are naturally abundant. These materials are appealing because of their abundance, low cost, and low environmental impact. Identifying suitable electrodes in these systems remains a scientific challenge, though. “Size and morphology are crucial factors that can affect the electrochemical properties of an electrode,” says Xiong. “Nano-sized electrode materials with different morphologies have shown improved kinetics and mechanical strength compared to their bulky counterparts.”

Promoting Awareness

Dr. Xiong takes an active role in promoting research for a greener world. She recently created a materials science and engineering program for the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County, Moseley Center. Dr. Xiong and students in her research group introduce STEM-related experiments and activities to students of all ages. Demonstrating Dr. Xiong with graduate assistant Changjian Deng and undergraduate researcher Jason MokSTEM principles at these crucial ages allows a younger generation to learn how materials and energy work in our everyday lives. More importantly, it promotes their having fun with STEM.  Dr. Xiong also organizes professional symposia and workshops on related topics in energy storage. She is regularly invited to give presentations at universities and conferences across the U.S.

Getting Involved

Are you curious about chemistry? Are you fascinated by physics? Materials science is a multidisciplinary subject that draws on chemistry, physics, and other sciences to solve engineering problems. Materials scientists perform interdisciplinary research on the structure, processing, properties, and performance of all materials to stretch boundaries and create new and better options.

The Micron School of Materials at Boise State University offers high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs in materials science and engineering. Are you ready to engineer a greener world? Apply to the Micron School of Materials!

Dr. Megan Frary, Outstanding Teacher

The Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering Promotes Student Success

Dr. Megan Frary, associate professor in the Micron School of Materials, received the Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) Pacific Northwest Section. The award recognizes outstanding Image of Megan Fraryclassroom performance among teachers of engineering and engineering technology students. It also serves as an incentive for all professors to focus on innovative teaching methods. Awardees must make significant contributions to their profession and meet several criteria in the classroom. Megan Frary certainly meets the criteria for the Outstanding Teaching Award.

Teachers Teaching Teachers

As a faculty associate with the Center for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Frary has been instrumental in facilitating the Boise State Teaching Scholars’ program. This program is designed to stimulate dialogue, reflection and innovation in teaching, foster a sense of community, and promote the scholarship of teaching and learning.  The program involves interdisciplinary communities of faculty in a year-long process of inquiry to promote faculty development. The program provides an excellent opportunity for Boise State faculty to explore best practices and engage in group exploration of teaching methods that improve student learning.

Commitment to Student Success

Dr. Frary’s commitment to her students is quite evident, based on her excellent teaching evaluations. She proves her strong focus on student success by being highly active in the Micron School of Materials’ undergraduate program. Megan currently serves as the undergraduate program coordinator and lead academic advisor. Being part of the Micron School of Materials in its early development, Dr. Frary knows the curriculum inside and out. She can let you know details about every MSE course from memory. This attribute allows her to provide top-notch leadership in curriculum management and academic advising.

Promoting Student Involvement

Dr. Frary was instrumental in founding the MSE Student Club, which is a chapter of Materials Advantage, a national professional society student organization. MSE Club membership facilitates social and professional development to enhance student success. The Club includes undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in collaborating and promoting the interdisciplinary field of materials science and engineering. Their activities range from social gatherings, study groups, participating in competitions at professional conferences, and recruiting prospective undergraduate and graduate students.

Learn more about Megan Frary online or contact her to find out more about her important work in promoting student success.