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Interdisciplinary Materials Science Program

Graduate Student Directory

Danielle Bailey

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Sandra Rosenthal (Chemistry) & Dr. Qi Zhang (Pharmacology)
Research:  My research involves the biological application of quantum dots (QDs). QDs are semiconductor nanocrystals that are incredibly bright and resistant to photobleaching, size-tunable, and multifunctional, and they allow for incorporation of a variety of ligands on the surface. Because of these properties, QDs are ideal fluorescent probes to study protein dynamics in live cell applications. My work focuses on utilizing and developing various QD conjugation strategies to study how the serotonin transporter protein interacts with other proteins in primary serotonergic neurons. By studying these interactions in real time, I hope to shed light on the molecular underpinnings of psychiatric diseases such as depression and bipolar disorder.
Undergraduate: Samford University, Biochemistry

Matthew Breeding

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Robert Reed (Electrical Engineering)
Research: My research is on radiation effects in 3-D integrated circuits. Semiconductor devices in radiation-rich environments are subject to a variety of failure/upset modes due to particle collisions. One of the key tools in predicting these errors is the ability to model electrical current generated at the sensitive components of a circuit by the transport, interaction, and release of ionizing particles within the device. As we approach the lower limit of functional CMOS transistor sizes, design schemes are moving increasingly towards vertical integration to achieve further improvements in processing capabilities. This is accomplished with relatively large conducting interconnects placed between the layers which are hypothesized to increase the probability of error due to radiation relative to conventional integrated circuits. My work consists of monte carlo analysis of these new components and configurations in various simulated radiative environments.
 Sam Houston State University, Physics

Casey Brock

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Greg Walker (Mechanical Engineering)
Research: My research aims to improve computer simulations of materials at the atomic scale.  Many interesting properties of materials result from the behavior of electrons. However, the immense computational expense of electronic structure calculations necessitates approximations such as the pseudopotential, which is used for density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The pseudopotential essentially freezes core electrons and models only the valence electrons which are responsible for bonding characteristics. Currently, I am developing methods to generate high quality pseudopotentials demand for a user's specific application, potentially affording gains in accuracy and efficiency over generic pseudopotentials pulled from pseudopotential libraries.  
Undergraduate: Austin Peay State University, Physics

Tengfei Cao

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Sharon Weiss (Electrical Engineering)
Research: My current research is focused on porous silicon based biosensing system. Porous silicon is a kind of very versatile materials with controllable nano scale pores. It can be used to fabricate various kinds of photonic structures. We employ these structures to build  biosensors. These sensors could potentially be fast-response, low cost, smartphone compatible and able to work on large scale inhomogeneous samples.
Undergraduate:  Fudan University, Electronic Science and Technology 

Yesol Ardis Choi 

Thesis Advisor:  Justus Ndukaife (Electrical Engineering)
My research is on plasmonic optical trapping of nanoparticles for dynamic patterning and assembly. Plasmonic materials are metal or metal-like materials that support a collective oscillation of charges called plasmons. The heating arising from shining a focused beam of light on plasmonic nanostructures on a chip generates various kinds of forces that can trap, transport, separate and assemble particles on the chip. The application of an electric field to this platform allows more efficient trapping by allowing the rapid transportation of particle to the trapping region for further manipulation. I am currently studying the effect of the shape and periodicity of plasmonic nanohole arrays, as well as the particle size and shape, on the trapping speed and assembly of target particles.
Undergraduate: Vanderbilt University, Physics, Computer Science and Communication of Science and Technology

Anna Douglas

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Cary Pint (Mechanical Engineering) & Rizia Bardhan (Chemical Engineering)
Research:  My current research efforts are focused on the transformation of waste into functional nanomaterials.  I am currently focused on the electrochemical growth of carbon nanotubes from carbon dioxide, which combines decades of catalytic carbon nanotube growth research with a growing effort to convert carbon dioxide into stable, functional molecules.  Carbon nanotubes are simultaneously one of the most useful materials, and one of the most expensive, because of traditional manufacturing methods.  However, our electrochemical growth technique using carbon dioxide would not only give a secondary value to the waste greenhouse gas, but provides an economical route to producing functional carbon nanotubes.
Undergraduate: Lee University, Mathematics and Chemistry

Madeleine Fort

Thesis Advisor: 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 Gerboth

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Greg Walker (Mechanical Engineering)
Research:  My research focuses on thermal transport at materials interfaces. In particular I am studying transport at interfaces mediated by van Der Waals interactions using computational techniques such as molecular dynamics (MD). Additionally I am developing techniques for determining phonon scattering rates, which are fundamental to thermal transport, from MD simulations using standing waves. Insights gained from these investigations can be applied to develop materials for highly efficient energy and computational device applications.
Undergraduate: Washington State University, Materials Science and Engineering

Justin Gilmer

Thesis Advisors: Clare McCabe (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) & Peter Cummings (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: My research aims to improve the reproducibility of computational sciences through the continued development of open-source software designed at Vanderbilt. Termed the Molecular Simulation and Design Framework (MoSDeF), the MoSDeF software suite has been developed with the goal of enabling TRUE simulations (Transparent, Reproducible, Usable by others, Extensible). In addition to software development, I am also exploring various soft matter systems for enhanced lubrication properties and mechanisms using the MoSDeF toolkit.
Clemson University, Materials Science and Engineering

Brice Harkey 

Thesis Advisor: Kelsey Hatzell (Mechanical Engineering)
Research:  The study of solid polymer-ceramic composite electrolytes is a field that is rapidly growing as a solution to the performance of solid state batteries. This is due to their outstanding mechanical properties, low flammability, and good electrochemical performance. Current lithium-Ion batteries (LIBs) have provided rechargeable sources of energy that align with desired characteristics such as lightweight and compact; yet, recent events in portable electronics and electric cars has pushed the challenge of gaining a safe all-solid-state battery that is compact, lightweight, safe, and with good performance standards to the utmost importance. In my current research, a garnet-polymer solid state electrolyte with various molecular weight polymers are synthesized using   (LLZO) and Polyethylene Oxide (PEO) in a multi-step process combining traditional solid-state synthesis with mechanochemical synthesis in order to study the effect of molecular weight on the electrochemical performance, the mechanical properties, and also the processability of the solid-state electrolyte.
Undergraduate: University of Southern Mississippi, Polymer Science and Engineering

Kristina Kitko

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Qi Zhang (Pharmacology) & Dr. Yaqiong Xu (Electrical Engineering)
Research: My research aims are based upon biological application of a graphene-based sensor, which includes characterizing the properties of biomaterials grown on graphene. My work combines our graphene biosensor with both pharmacological and optogenetic control, where neurons are genetically encoded to respond to optical stimulation, to study signaling in small networks in the hippocampus. My goal is to begin to deconvolve synaptic signal integration with high spatio-temporal resolution, which will inform the understanding of an umbrella of diseases and dysfunctions facing modern neuroscience.
Undergraduate: Vanderbilt University, Mechanical Engineering

Kan Li

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Ronald Schrimpf (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science)
 My research focuses on the radiation and reliability of semiconductors. As semiconductors are playing more and more important role in Defense, Aerospace, Aeronautics, Medical, IT as well as Products and Services, we want to do contribution to the design and analysis of radiation-hardened electronics and the development of solutions to system-specific problems related to radiation effects. My recent projects are about the exploration of SET effects of Black Phosphorus Field-effect transistor with dielectric materials of different thickness, which might be helpful for future's 2D FET devices development, and also research on the excitation of electron-hole pairs in semiconductors by photons which may shed light on single phonon absorption and double phonons absorption mechanism. Besides, I also do some basic fabrications of semiconductor devices.
Undergraduate: Wuhan University of Technology, Materials Science and Engineering
Masters:  Rice University, Materials Science and Nano Engineering  

Yuanzhe Liang

Thesis Advisor: Shihong Lin (Civil Engineering)
Beijing University of Chemical Technology
Masters: Case Western Reserve University, Macromolecular Science and Engineering

Joesph 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

Kate Moyer

Thesis Advisors: Cary Pint (Mechanical Engineering) & Dr. Rizia Bardhan (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
My current research efforts focus on developing new methods and materials to engineer lower cost, high performing energy storage devices devices, such as lithium ion batteries (LIBs). I'm using alternative manufacturing methods such as electrophoretic deposition to develop high areal performance cathodes using alternative solvent processing and low-cost, non-toxic materials such as lithium iron phosphate. I am also investigating different battery architectures, such as an anode free design to further enhance the lifetime and cyclability of LIBs. 
Stevens Institute of Technology, Chemical Engineering

Nitin Muralidharan

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Cary Pint (Mechanical Engineering) & Doug Adams (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Research: The current focus of my research is on direct integration of tailored tunable hierarchical nanostructures on a NiTi shape memory superelastic alloy for energy storage applications. Nitinol (NiTi alloy) is a shape memory superelastic alloy with a variety of applications ranging from structural reinforcements, biomedical implants, smart sensors and heat engines. Integrating the capability to store energy on the surface of the alloy and selectively tuning the energy storage capability using hierarchical nanostructures is the major focus of my current research. The energy storage capability is imparted to the alloy by controlled surface engineering processes which create hierarchical pseudocapacitive nanostructures on the surface of the alloy. Apart from this, I am also working on fabricating transient pseudocapacitors and batteries using atomic layer deposition and isolating strain dependent processes in electrochemical energy storage devices.
Undergraduate: Anna University, Chemical Engineering
Masters: University of Cincinnati, Materials Science

Ryan Nolen

Representative, Graduate Student Council
Thesis Advisor:
Josh Caldwell (Mechanical Engineering)
Research:  Thermal radiation produces a broadband, isotropic source of light with a temperature dependant spectrum and intensity. While the broadband, uniform emission of a thermal source is advantageous for some applications, for others it can be a severe drawback. My research involves utilizing subdiffractional optical modes, such as surface plasmon polaritons (SPPs) and surface phonon polaritons (SPhPs), in nanostructured polar semiconductor materials in order to achieve infrared “LED-like” thermal emitters, with narrow-band emission and controlled polarization and directionality.
Lipscomb University, Mechanical Engineering 

Brian O'Grady

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Leon Bellan (Mechanical Engineering) & Ethan Lippmann (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: In the body, particularly during development, cells are exposed to a wide range of biochemical signals that vary in both space and time, guiding cell behavior and organ formation. Many developmental biology studies have demonstrated the need for well-regulated presentation of various cues. My work focuses on developing a platform for controlling the presentation of soluble compounds within a large-scale hydrogel scaffold to direct undifferentiated stem cells using morphogen gradients. By studying these gradients, I hope to further the understanding of stem cell differentiation processes through the control of morphogen delivery relative to the time cells are exposed to morphogens and specific spatial populations that arise due to the gradients.
Undergraduate:  University of Texas San Antonio, Neurobiology
Masters: University of Texas San Antonio, Biology

Liudmyla Prozorovska

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Kane Jennings (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) & Shihong Lin (Civil Engineering)
National Technical University of Ukraine "Kyyiv Polytechnic Institute", Metallurgy
Masters: National Technical University of Ukraine "Kyyiv Polytechnic Institute", Special Metallurgy

Mahmud Reaz 

Thesis Advisor: Ronald Schrimpf (Electrical Engineering)
My research focuses on the temporal and spatial distribution of the hot carriers in high-speed short channel devices. As we are pushing the length and speed limit, the oversimplified physical model can not simulate device properties appropriately. Examining the validity of the model parameters related to Boltzmann transport equation, full band structure, scattering rate should help overcome some of the important challenges of the electronic devices.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
Masters: Missouri State University, Materials Science 

Kemar Reid

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Sandra Rosenthal (Chemistry) & Richard Haglund (Physics)
Research: My research focuses on the development of colloidally prepared semiconductor quantum dots (QDs), which are nanoscale analogs of bulk semiconductor crystals. In particular, I employ single-nanocrystal methods to study the interplay between the structureand the optical and electronic properties of QDs with the goal of engineering improved QD structures. QDs are of interest in display, lighting and biological labelling technologies.
College of Wooster, Mathematics
Masters: Fisk University, Physics

Keith Share

Thesis Advisors: Dr. Cary Pint (Mechanical Engineering) & Dr. Sharon Weiss (Electrical Engineering)
Research: My research focuses on energy storage devices such as supercapacitors and sodium ion batteries with the goal of understanding and developing new materials that have better performance, easier processing, and are less expensive than current technologies. I'm using materials like transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) and graphene coated porous silicon to engineer new electrodes with nano-scale morphologies. My work also involves designing electrodes from materials using atomic layer deposition (ALD) which provides atom layer control of the thickness.
Tufts University, Chemical Engineering

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 

Andrew Tonigan

Thesis Advisors: Ron Schrimpf (Electrical Engineering) & Greg Walker (Mechanical Engineering)
Research:  My research revolves around radiation and temperature effects observed in solid-state materials and devices. I work with well-characterized electronic components (cmos/bipolar devices, LEDs, capacitors, etc.) and phosphors to measure atomic displacement damage and ionizing dose as they lead to macroscopic changes in material/device properties. I am interested in improving our ability to predict and understand the susceptibility of electronic components and systems to radiation by coupling device physics and radiation physics simulations. Another one of my projects is the development of an ASTM test method that uses bipolar junction transistors to determine the magnitude of displacement damage created in electronic materials by bombardment with neutrons and protons.
Undergraduate: University of New Mexico, Nuclear Engineering

Kody Wolfe 

Thesis Advisors:  David Cliffel (Chemistry) & Kane Jennings (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Research: The careful engineering of bio-hybrid solar energy conversion devices containing photoactive proteins found in plant chloroplasts is one route toward improving the efficiency of solar cells. While the mechanism of photosynthesis is well understood, controlling the behavior of the proteins after they are extracted from their natural environment is troublesome. My research is focused on protein orientation schemes as well as coupling the protein with an optimal electrode material and electrochemical mediator to create more efficient bio-hybrid solar devices. My research involves mostly electrochemical testing and I am also interested in coupled energy conversion and storage devices such as solar coupled redox flow systems.
Undergraduate: Ohio University, Chemical Engineering

You Zhou

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jason Valentine (Mechanical Engineering) 
Research:  The current focus of my research is on dielectric metasurfaces, which is a type of planar nanostructured devices to locally modulate wavefront within subwavelength thickness and resolution. Combining the knowledge of optics and the risen advanced nanofabrication techniques, metasurfaces show a great promise for replacing conventional optical devices with small footprint and comparable performances. Specifically,  I’m working on designing and making metalens that is ultrathin, lightweight but behave just as well as bulky conventional lenses, which possess applications in digital displays such as full-color holograms, virtual reality headsets, and computer vision. Apart from this, I’m also work on expanding metasurfaces’ capacity for data processing, information storage and security & encryption.
Sun Yat-Sen University, Optical Information Science and Technology