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Interdisciplinary Materials Science Program

Graduate Student Directory

Huijin An

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Incheon National University, Nano Bioengineering

Kellen Arnold

Thesis Advisor:  Dr. Sharon Weiss (Electrical Engineering)
Research:  Several decades ago, fiber optics was adopted for long-distance communications. This has powered our interconnected planet by offering fast, high bandwidth data transfer to encode information and ship it around the world. Technological demand is ever increasing, which initiates a need to offer optical data processing for data centers and even on computer chips. This is where my research comes in - I work in the field of silicon photonics, where we examine fundamental light-matter interactions and on-chip optical components. My work includes simulation, design, fabrication, and testing of nanoscale devices that will continue to meet our growing global requirements.
Undergraduate: SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Nanoscale Engineering and Applied Mathematics

Bradly Baer

Thesis Advisor:  Dr. Greg Walker (Mechanical Engineering)
Research: My current research is on phonons in superlattices of semiconductor materials.  Using Density Functional Theory (DFT), I am modeling the phonons in AlN/GaN superlattices to determine how the interfaces between the layers affect the phonons and thus the macroscopic properties of the material.  As nanofabrication techniques continue to improve, a better understanding of the phonon behavior in these layered materials can be used to guide the design and development of new materials with interesting thermal and optical properties.
Undergraduate: Point Loma Nazarene College, Chemistry
Masters: Vanderbilt University, Interdisciplinary Materials Science

Nicholas 'Cal' Craven

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Clare McCabe (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
I work in the area of Molecular Dynamics Simulations. These simulations rely on statistical mechanics fundamentals to provide heuristic accuracy for complex chemical situations. While experimental techniques, such as in-situ microscopy, continue to significantly improve, simulations provide much clearer insight due to the collection of each atom's trajectory throughout a process. Furthermore, the scalability of these simulations allows for efficient screening of complex parameter space to focus in on a chemical subset of interest. My project looks at polymer thin film coatings and their stimulated responses to common solvents. This has applications within the field of smart sensors and coatings.
Undergraduate: Ohio State University, Chemical Engineering

Katja Diaz-Granados

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Josh Caldwell (Mechanical Engineering)
Research: My primary interest is in studying ways in which the crystal symmetries of various naturally occurring materials can be harnessed to tailor thermal emission and near-field radiative heat transport. A unique class of materials are those with an extreme form of anisotropy that exhibit either a metallic or dielectric-like optical response depending on the crystal axis of interest. These hyperbolic materials offer an opportunity for the sub-diffractional confinement of light using an electromagnetic mode consisting of light coupled with lattice vibrations to form a volume confined hyperbolic phonon polariton. These hyperbolic phonon polaritons propagate at fixed angles that depend on the frequency, making them ideal candidates for research on directing radiative heat transfer across interfaces.

Undergraduate: Harvard-Radcliffe, Integrative Biology

Jeremy Espano

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
Research: My research investigates the ways in which we can controllably synthesize different phases of metal chalcogenide nanoparticles. Nanoparticle phase is an important but overlooked aspect of nanoparticle design due to its heavy influence on the properties and applications of the synthesized nanoparticles. We manipulate precursor kinetics, decomposition mechanisms, solvent interactions, and temperature in order to observe its effects on bottom-up nanoparticle synthesis. By doing so we can observe and unravel interesting kinetic and thermodynamic trends. This information will help add on to the field and help expand on basic nanoparticle principles like LaMer’s nucleation theory and Ostwald’s rule of stages. Finally, by achieving phase control, we are one step closer in facilitating the emergence of next generation nanoparticle technologies in a wide variety of fields.
Undergraduate: Boston College, Chemistry

Madeleine Fort

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
Research: My research examines the surface of pyrite nanocrystals bound with various ligands. Iron pyrite has the potential to drastically alter the field of photovoltaics with an ideal bandgap and high absorption coefficient. By varying the methods of binding and therefore surface morphology, I aim to determine whether it is possible to eliminate surface trap states. This research has implications not only for photovoltaics, but for general dichalcogenide nanocrystal surfaces and examines the impact of altering ligands on the properties of these nanocrystals.
Undergraduate: Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Engineering Materials

Matthew Galazzo

Thesis Advisor: Dr. David Cliffel (Chemistry)
Research: Photosystem I, one of the two major proteins responsible for photosynthesis in plants, can be integrated without loss of function into a variety of traditional electrode materials. Due to lack of orientation and kinetic limitations, its efficiency is greatly reduced, yielding currents in the nanoampere range and making it unsuitable for practical application. I fabricate microfluidic devices that make use of a higher surface area to volume ratio and control of flow conditions to improve electrochemical mediator conversion. Improved conversion has implications for Photosystem I in solar energy for small devices, potential redox flow battery membranes, or chemical synthesis.  
Undergraduate: California Polytechnic State University-Pomona, Chemical Engineering
Masters: Fisk University, Chemistry

Noah Holliger

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Greg Walker (Mechanical Engineering)
My research focuses on capturing multispectral thermal images to identify materials via machine learning techniques. Every material has a characteristic emissivity as a function of the wavelength of light emitted. In some sense, this gives each material a fingerprint that I exploit for identification. Long pass and short pass filters placed over a thermal camera’s lens are utilized to peer into a specific spectral region of the thermal emission. The resulting temperatures measured by the thermal camera with each filter provide insight into the material’s emissive fingerprint. A machine learning algorithm uses these temperatures to identify the material in question. Furthermore, once the material is identified the thermal camera no longer needs to assume an emissivity for the material in view, thus allowing more accurate temperature measurements.
Undergraduate: Kansas State University, Chemical Engineering

Tao Hong

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Deyu Li (Mechanical Engineering)
My research project focuses on integrating metasurface and microfluidics for multifunctional bioimaging and sensing. The conventional spectroscopy and microscopy techniques for cell-level biosensing and imaging relay on bulky and expensive components including beam splitters, filters, waveplates, prisms, and mirrors. The structure of conventional integrated optical system is not modularized to adapt new configuration and thus only limited to few combinable functions. Unlike conventional optical components, metasurface is structured by subwavelength-spaced planar phase shifters, which forms miniature interfaces for accurate wavefront manipulation of light. By taking the advantage of compatibility of metasurface and microfluidics, I am working on developing integrable modules with various cell-level optical biosensing and imaging functions. By combining modules with different functions, a comprehensive investigation of cellular species and processes on a miniature and inexpensive system will be beneficial for early cancer detection and disease recognition in underdeveloped areas.
Undergraduate: Cornell University, Materials Science and Engineering

Sajal Islam

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Primeasia University, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Masters: Missouri State University, Materials Science

Elena Kovalik  

Thesis Advisor: Jason Valentine (Mechanical Engineering)
Research:  In the Valentine group we study metamaterials- nanostructured materials with engineered optical properties. Of particular interest are dynamic metamaterials, which can tune or switch their optical response with an external stimulus. My research exists at the intersection of nanophotonics and electrochemistry, focusing on electrochemically modulated dynamic metamaterials. My work uses electrochemical methods- such as intercalation or redox reactions- to tune metamaterials in the visible spectrum. These projects are being pursued for application in next-generation reflective displays.
 University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Physics

Ryan Kowalski  

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Josh Caldwell (Mechanical Engineering)
My research focuses on investigating the local dielectric properties of single-photon emitting point defects in wide bandgap semiconductors (e.g. diamond nitrogen-vacancy center), which are an exceptionally promising physical platform for quantum information sciences. Using infrared scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) and nanoscale Fourier transform infrared (nano-FTIR), surface defects can be identified both spectrally and spatially with highly sub-diffractional resolution (<20 nm). Correlating the s-SNOM data with photoluminescence spectroscopy will provide a non-destructive and high-throughout characterization technique to determine the chemical structure of single-photon emitting point defects.
Undergraduate: University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Mechanical Engineering

Qiuyao Li

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Sichuan University, Physics
Masters: Univeristy of Science and Technology of China, Physics

Mackey 'Trey" Long III

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Auburn University, Materials Science and Engineering

Joseph Matson 

President, MRS Student Chapter
Thesis Advisor: 
Josh Caldwell (Mechanical Engineering)
Research: Conventional optics components are diffraction limited - meaning the maximum resolution is on the order of the wavelength of light. This is a problem, particularly for longer wavelength light such as the infrared spectrum. This limitation can be circumvented through coupling light with inherent material vibrations such as phonons. This coupling confines the wavelength of light - potentially allowing remarkable increases in resolution. My research involves finding ways to tailor these material oscillations for specific applications. In particular, I look at how you can design the material lattice oscillations to create new materials for next generation infrared optical components.
Hendrix College, Physics

Mark Mc Veigh

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Northeastern Univeristy, Chemical Engineering
Masters: Northeastern University, Chemical Engineering

Owen Meilander

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Westminster College, Physics & Mathematics

Madison Miller

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Univeristy of Florida, Materials Science and Engineering

Nichole Moehring  

Thesis Advisor: Piran Kidambi (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: My research focuses on investigating the proton conductivity of two dimensional (2D) materials such as graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN). Pristine graphene and h-BN represent the fundamentally thinnest possible membranes, and are impermeable to gases as small as He but allow subatomic species, such protons, to pass through. After synthesizing these materials using chemical vapor deposition, I use electrochemical tests to investigate the transport of protons through these 2D lattices. Understanding the transport of protons through 2D crystals will enable applications in proton exchange membranes, isotope separations, and artificial photosynthesis.
Undergraduate: University of Wisconsin - Stout, Applied Science with Materials and Nanoscience Concentration

Kieran Nehil-Puleo

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Michigan State University, Materials Science and Engineering & Statistics

Courtney Ragle

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Fort Lewis College, Chemistry

Aditha Senarath

Thesis Advisors: Josh Caldwell (Mechanical Engineering) & Ronald Schrimpf (Electrical Engineering)
Research: Wide-bandgap semiconductors are gaining interest in high-power, high-temperature, and high-frequency applications due to their excellent electrical properties. Besides that, wide-bandgap materials such as b-Ga2O3 can be used in micro and nano-electronic devices to increase the device's radiation hardness. From outer space to airplane avionics to accelerators and nuclear power plants, radiation impacts in electronics are a severe concern for the performance and survivability of systems. My primary research focuses on characterizing and identifying radiation-induced defects in wide-bandgap semiconductor devices. Understanding the correlation between those defects and the electrical properties in micro and nano-devices is crucial because when the size of electronic devices shrinks and the device contains a few thousand atoms, a single defect can cause it to stop working. This project will help to develop future micro and nano-devices with high radiation hardness. 
Undergraduate: University of Peradeniya, Physics
Masters: Wright State University, Physics

Rahul Shah

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Indian Institute of Science - Bangalore, Materials Science
Masters: Indian Institute of Science - Bangalore, Materials Science

Soren Smail

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Univeristy of Cincinnati, Biochemistry

Haohong Song

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Univeristy of Science and Technology of China, Polymer Chemistry

Nathan Spear 

Thesis Advisor: Janet Macdonald (Chemistry)
My research focuses on the synthesis of metal-semiconductor hybrid nanoparticles for photo-catalysis. Hybrid nanoparticles have the capability to combine the light absorbing aspect of direct band gap semiconductors with the advantageous catalytic surface properties of certain metals to produce devices that efficiently convert light and reagents into desirable reduction products. Of particular interest is the photo-chemical reduction of carbon dioxide due to its abundance as an industrial byproduct and the greenhouse effect it contributes to. Additionally, I am exploring nanoparticle solutions for light up-conversion devices.
Undergraduate: Purdue University, Materials Science 

Brayden Terry

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Al Strauss (Mechanical Engineering)
The Vanderbilt University Welding Automation Lab (VUWAL) focuses on studying advanced joining processes with a focus on Friction Stir Welding and its derivative processes. As a solid-state joining process, friction stir welding allows for joining of materials that are not weldable by traditional liquid-state means as well as joining of dissimilar materials. Major applications of friction stir welding are found in the aerospace and automotive industries. My research focuses on the creation of metal matrix composites via friction stir processing, a derivative of FSW, and application of FSW to shape memory alloys. Metal matrix composites can provide improved material properties over base materials by including hard strengthening particles suspended in the host material. Shape memory alloys have been used in aerospace as actuators on both regular aircraft and spacecraft and are being explored for uses as vibration dampeners and smart wing technologies.
Undergraduate: Colorado School of Mines, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering

Matthew Vasuta

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Univeristy of Tennessee - Knoxville, Chemical Engineering

Harrison Walker

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Auburn University, Materials Science and Engineering

John Waugh  

Thesis Advisor: Peter Pintauro (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: John Waugh works on electrospinning electrodes for capacitive desalination. By extruding polymer inks under high voltages onto a rotating drum, we can form robust nanofiber mat networks with high surface area for a variety of applications. This work employs carbonized polymer nanofibers for use as electrodes in a capacitive deionization system, in which salt ions are selectively removed from brackish water systems via the double layer effect. These nanofiber systems can be changed in respect to fiber structure, surface modifications, and additives, such as additional particles, to adjust the properties and performance of the electrode. This work is done at Los Alamos National Labs through a subcontract with Vanderbilt.
Undergraduate: Virginia Tech, Physics

Christopher Whittington

First Year Student
Undergraduate: Clark Univeristy, Physics

Sen Yang  

Thesis Advisor: Justus Ndukaife (Electrical Engineering)
My research is primarily in the field of dielectric meta-optics. In nanophotonics, strong field enhancement and narrow spectrum linewidth are required for many applications. Dielectric resonators based on Mie resonances show a near-zero absorption and relatively narrow resonance linewidth compared with plasmonic structures, thus have attracted a lot of attention. Currently, I'm focusing on state-of-the-art researches on novel modes existing in dielectric resonators, such as bound states in the continuum (BICs) and anapole modes that strikingly present high quality factors as well as well field confinement. For our group, we hope to harness these modes to manipulate nanoparticles and biomolecules, which work in a similar way as plasmonic nano-tweezers.
Undergraduate: Harbin Institute of Technology, Optics

Alexis Yates

Thesis Advisor: Ethan Lippmann (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is expected to increase, the lack of disease-modifying treatments to slow the progression is extremely concerning. The impact of neurovascular health on abnormal brain aging and cognitive impairment has been recognized as a major contributor to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementais, and vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. My research is focused on the hemodynamic contributions to VICD. In particular, I am examining the neurovascular unit (NVU) response to models of hypertension and elevated blood pulsatility, the two most common hemodynamic contributors to dementia. I utilize biomaterials and stem cell culture techniques to fabricate single-channel cell models of the NVU, constructed from a biomimetic hydrogel which has been shown to support neural cell growth and maturation. My work consists of designing and fabricating bioreactors, cell culture (primarily iPS-derived endothelial cells and pericytes), hydrogel synthesis, and the atomic force microscopy to characterize material properties.
Undergraduate: Biola University, Biochemistry