Cohort 2 (Entering 2011-2012 AY)

Marc Murphy
IGERT Trainee, 2011-2013
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor:  Dr. Bruce van Dover
Cornell University

While my research group focuses on a wide range of topics involving thin films, my personal interest focuses on catalytic composition spreads, comprised of multi-element (noble metals, transition metals) systems, for fuel cell applications.  Using a custom-built sputtering system, multiple elements can be sputtered onto a single substrate using four magnetron sputter guns. Each gun holds a metal target corresponding to the material needing deposition.  With three of the sputter guns slightly angled relative to the substrate surface and the fourth gun perpendicular, materials  deposit at non-uniform rates across the surface of the substrate, creating wedge-like profiles from each of the guns.  The resulting films contain a multi-element spread with a certain continuous composition range depending on the rate of deposition.  Characterizing these composition spreads facilitates our combinatorial approach of screening novel materials that could potentially yield good catalytic activity, minimizing poisoning from impurities (carbon monoxide, sulfur) present within the various fuels we test over time, all while trying to reduce material cost.  Currently, Pt emerges as  the most successful catalyst material to date, but shows high susceptibility to poisoning; we also cannot ignore the high cost associated with Pt. Much of my research also entails thorough electrochemical work on our composition spreads.  Presently, our main approach to screening catalytic activity involves the use of our fluorescence assay.  Regions yielding good catalytic activity consume (oxidize) our test fuel, locally decreasing the pH of our test solution.  When viewed under UV light, the protonated quinine indicator fluoresces, displaying bright regions that indicate areas of high catalytic activity. To circumvent some of the limitations in our present electrochemical characterization methods, I’m working to incorporate a multielectrode array into our composition spreads.  Using a multi-channel potentiostat or a custom-built “psuedopotentiostat”, we can independently measure the catalytic activities (cyclic voltammetry) of our composition spreads.

Seth Rylander
IGERT Trainee, 2011-2012
B.S., Mechanical Engineering
M.S., Environmental Engineering
Microsystems Research Group (MRG)
Advisor:  Dr. Frances Williams
Norfolk State University
Current Position: Accenture, SWBI Consulting Analyst

Our research group focuses on the design, modeling, and fabrication of MEMS/NEMS devices (Microelectromechanical Systems/Nanoelectromechanical Systems) and acoustic microsensors for various applications in the biomedical, defense, and environmental sectors. Our work involves looking into novel microsensors and actuators for pressure applications, detection and assessment of biochemical agents, monitoring blood glucose and monitoring semiconductor processes. We utilize finite element analysis software to verify model constraints and feasibility, and perform fabrication in the newly established Micro-and Nano-Technology Center (MiNaC) Cleanroom Facility at Norfolk State University. My current research aims to design a magnetostrictive biosensor to detect various environmental organic pollutants such as halogenated and aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  Multifunctional environmental biosensors are needed to improve the ability to detect, monitor and assess various environmental organic pollutants.  These sensors yield rapid, efficient, and immediate qualitative analysis compared to traditional analytical techniques such as gas/liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. The IGERT Fellowship provides a platform for approaching challenging research. Activities include professional development in topics such as intellectual property, ethics in research, and technical writing-all pivotal elements to becoming a balanced professional researcher. Involvement with interdisciplinary colleagues at different institutions allows me to improve in networking, collaboration, and exposure to the ways other IGERT trainees approach problem solving. The enriched environment provided through IGERT-MNM will greatly aid in my continuing academic, professional, and career development in the STEM and STEM-education related fields.

Thomas Wallin
IGERT Trainee, 2011-2014; Associate Trainee, 2014-
B.S., Physics and Chemistry
Design and Manufacture of Soft Systems Lab
Advisor:  Dr. Emmanuel Giannelis and Dr. Lynden Archer
Cornell University

I am a PhD student in Materials Science and Engineering at Cornell University.  I am coadvised by Professor Emmanuel Giannelis and Professor Lynden Archer. I joined IGERT in 2011 as a Trainee. The main focus of my research work is the synthesis and study of a gold nanorod (GNR) based nanocomposite.  Recent work has yielded the ability to make gold nanorods of varying aspect ratios which demonstrate interesting optical and electrical properties depending on the geometry.  By functionalizing these surfaces of these rods, we are able to create a nanocomposite that still exhibit the solid-like plasmonic properties of the gold nanorods, while simultaneously showing liquid like behavior.  Thus we have created gold nanorod fluids with tunable viscoelastic and plasmonic properties.  My work will focus on the rheology of such GNR fluids. I am thankful for my involvement in this IGERT as it affords me the opportunity to expand on my classroom training and develop skills essential to success as a researcher and professional.  The unique IGERT modules and assignments incorporate creativity, hone writing skills, foster collaboration, and mandate effective communication skills; all valuable tools I will employ in my future endeavors as a scientist.

Quincy L. Williams
IGERT Trainee, 2012-
B.S., Physics
Advisor: Dr. Doyle Temple
Norfolk State University

My name is Quincy Leon Williams and I am a Materials Science and Engineering PhD student at Norfolk State University. My main interest is in the field of magnetic nano-materials. I work on projects designed to characterize the electromagnetic properties of dielectric materials infused with ferromagnetic nano-particles. The research has yielded several interesting results concerning the tunability of magnetic resonance at microwave frequencies. I also have a keen interest in system analysis and did a study as an undergraduate on linear time invariant systems capable of yielding a unique result for a continuous spectrum of inputs. As a graduate student, I wish to continue my investigations of magnetic systems in a composite medium using a combination of experimental investigations and theoretical modeling. My IGERT training has increased my awareness of professional development, improved my ability to communicate effectively and given me the tools necessary to engage in interdisciplinary research.

Santoshkumar Biradar, Ph.D. '13
IGERT Associate Trainee, 2012-2013
B.S., Polymer Science and Technology
M.S., Chemical Engineering
Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering
Advisor: Dr. Govindarajan Ramesh
Norfolk State University
Current Position: Rice University, Posdoctoral Research Associate

My IGERT training has increased my awareness of professional development, improved my ability to communicate effectively and given me the tools necessary to engage in interdisciplinary research.Our research group focuses on synthesis of nanomaterials and their utilization in potential biomedcal applications.  My research work involves synthesis of nano-sized particles of inorganic materials like carbonate, sulphate and phosphate of calcium and gold, their characterization and biocompatibility studies amd ultimately, their effective utilization as part of treatments in biomedical applications like bioimaging and biosensors. Polymer Mediated Growth (PMG) technique is adopted for the synthesis of nanoparticles of aforementioned inorganic materials.  The process is developed by studying the influence of different process parameters for optimized sizes of nanoparticles.  Gold nanoparticles are synthesized via the citrate and organic solvents rountes.  IGERT has honed my writing and communication skills. The four professional development modules (Intellectual Property and Ethics, Writing, Independent Research and Pedagogy) have significantly contributed to my success.  The Independent Research Module helped me identify problems and come out with prioritized solutions.  Discussions with Trainees and PIs from my university as well as the collaborating schools added a new dimension to my thinking as each individual offered varied approaches to solving problems.

Sha’La Fletcher
IGERT AssociateTrainee, 2012
B.S., Mechanical Engineering
M.S., Mechanical Engineering
Ultra-Thin Films and High-k Dielectrics Research
Advisor:  Dr. Aswini Pradhan
Norfolk State University


Our research group focuses on the manufacturing of thin and ultra-thin film combinations for electronic applications.  This includes insertion into MEMS/NEMS (Microelectromechanical/ Nanoclectromechanical) devicesf for computing, aerospace and biological technologies.  Ourside of thin fim applications, we also pursue a growing area of research in biosensors that includes the synthesis of magnetic nanoparticles and electron beam lithography-produced DNA sensors.  My reseaarch involves the mechanical properites of ultra-thin film high-k dielectrics.  These high-k dielectrics are desired for their ferromagnetic, ferroelectric, piezoelectric and perovskite combinations of layers for investigation in electronic applications.  Although most of the members of my group are not experts in researching the electrical, magnetic and optical properties of these films, my growing expertise involves not only the optimized manufacturing of these ultra-thin film layers, but also their mechanical feasibility.  IGERT offers a great way to expand one's thinking outside the primary research area.  Many times as graduate students and researchers, we limit our attention to what we do in our labs.  IGERT exposes students to research beyond our scope by encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.  I learn to connect my research to that of my colleagues because of this integrative exposure, and visualize the larger embodiment of the projects as they relate to application.  Not only do i feel that through IGERT I become a better researcher, but also that I develop as a well-rounded professional.

Casey Gonder
IGERT Associate Trainee,  2011-2012
Thin Film Fabrication and Characterization Lab
Advisor:  Dr. Messaoud Bahoura
Norfolk State University




My area of research focuses on the application of ferroelectric and piezoelectric thin films for memory devices, microsensors, and microactuators. Films such as Lead Zirconate Titanate (PZT) and Barium Strontium Titanate (BST) are a class of materials that have excellent piezoelectric properties, high Curie temperature, and high dielectric constants, suitable for such devices. Synthesis of these materials involves careful deposition and characterization techniques as well as fabrication using our state-of-the-art full-scale cleanroom. In addition, Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MEMS) devices are increasingly considered for thin film integration. Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) MEMS coupled with Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductors (C-MOS) for applications such as biosensors gain attention as a direction for further  research investigation.  However, there are limited studies on the reliability and durability of such MEMS based C-MOS applications. The goal is to optimize deposition growth conditions of the films for improved device performance. IGERT significantly influences my academic success. The professional development and interdisciplinary collaborations affect my work ethic, communication, and learning skills to a high degree. The four modules-Intellectual Property and Ethics, Writing, Independent Research, and Pedagogy-exercised various activities and presented information that helped advance my development as a student and future professional. I believe that the traditional classroom structure limits individual students’ exposure to their strengths and weaknesses, whereas IGERT offers a safe, open environment in which to explore and grow. Participation as an Associate Trainee boosts my confidence that the techniques I  learned will prepare me for a better future, with  skills enhanced beyond those I  used before joining this program.

Ahmad Mozafari
IGERT Associate Trainee, 2011-2012
Optical Materials and Laser Spectroscopy Lab
Advisor:  Dr. Mikhail Noginov
Norfolk State University

My research work may be summarized as “Selective Thermal Radiation from a Mimicked Black Body Made of Metamaterial”.  All atoms and molecules with a temperature above absolute zero have thermal energy, which appears as random movements of the atoms and molecules (kinetic energy).  The presence of charged particles (protons and electrons in atoms) and movements and interactions of atoms and molecules produces charge acceleration or dipole oscillation, which results in electromagnetic wave generation and emission.  Generation of electromagnetic waves from thermal energy is called thermal emission or thermal radiation. .  Absorptivity or emissivity of every material is dependent on the radiation wavelength. “Black body” is a theoretical term for a material with perfect absorptivity, meaning it absorbs all wavelengths of radiation.  A black body also functions as a perfect emitter, and is impossible to fabricate.  My research is based on selectively controlling thermal emission (electromagnetic wave radiation with certain wavelengths) by using metamaterials as a black body-like absorber/emitter. While in my second year of IGERT, I worked on a module which investigated how to prepare and write a successful white paper.

Thejaswi Tumkur
IGERT Associate Trainee, 2011-
B.S., Materials Science and Engineering
M.S., Materials Science and Engineering
Optical Materials and Laser Spectroscopy Lab
Advisor: Dr. Mikhail Noginov
Norfolk State University


Our research group works on a wide range of research topics encompassing metamaterials, nanoplasmonics, and random lasers. My research revolves around the design and characterization of hyperbolic metamaterials, with a strong focus on tailoring optical properties in unconventional ways. Metamaterials are engineered media comprising metallic and dielectric nanoinclusions, exhibiting unique properties, which make them useful for a variety of unparalleled applications. Hyperbolic metamaterials are a class of metamaterials which possesses a property known as hyperbolic dispersion, where the components of dielectric permittivity are axially anisotropic.  A host of optical phenomena such as absorption, emission, reflection, non-linearity, scattering, etc. are expected to be affected by hyperbolic dispersion. Some of our recent experimental explorations include the demonstration of reduction in spontaneous emission lifetimes and enhancement in absorption of emitting dyes, drastically reduced reflection off corrugated and scattering hyperbolic surfaces. The predicted and observed properties of hyperbolic metamaterials could lead to high frequency and broadband LEDs, more efficient solar cells, and “darker than black” materials for stealth technology among many other applications. The IGERT program is a great opportunity to showcase my research to faculty and students from other groups and universities. It also serves as a platform for interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Moreover, true to its motive, IGERT helps me become a better PhD candidate, by nurturing skills that are not part of a regular graduate student’s research. These skills encompass a wide variety of educational and technical aspects of science, such as focus on communication, networking, and ethical and intellectual property rights.







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