During his graduate research, Materials Science and Engineering PhD student Thomas Moran stepped out of his comfort zone and into the eastern hemisphere when he decided to pursue professional industry experience in Japan. With the help of his advisor, Department Head Bryan Huey, Moran was able to join the Japanese electronics manufacturer Murata as a Research and Development Intern.
Moran received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Union College in 2016. He realized his interest in materials science during this time. “I got involved in undergraduate research that dealt with materials, and by the time the research was ramping up, I took a Junior-level materials science course and from there I was hooked,” he says. He ended up pursuing a self-designed interdisciplinary minor which enabled him to focus his research on solar cell materials using atomic force microscopy (AFM).
Moran enjoyed his studies related to materials science so much that he decided graduate school was the next step. “I was pretty sure I wanted to pursue MSE, but while I had some research experience, I didn’t have a whole lot of coursework past the basics,” Moran says.
In 2016, he chose to officially continue his education at UConn. “I liked the industry connections, and the focus I saw being put on the MSE program,” he says. “I met Bryan on my accepted students’ visit, and with the combination of shared research interests and my experience with AFM as an undergrad, joining his group was a natural next step,” Moran said.
The IMS 2020 Newsletter is out today with news from across the Institute. Stories in this year’s issue highlight groundbreaking research from our faculty and students, follow the progress of IMS alumni, examine outreach by our Industrial Affiliates Program and other efforts at the university level, and introduce you to new faculty and staff members. Start reading now!
Two MSE students, Ayana Ghosh and Lucas Enright, won awards at the 11th annual Electronic Materials and Applications (EMA) Conference. The conference was organized by Electronics and Basic Science Divisions of the American Ceramic Society and was held in Orlando, FL at the end of January 2020. Ghosh, a graduate student, was awarded Best Poster for her research on organic ferroelectrics, and Enright, a senior, was recognized as the Best Student Speaker for his talk in the session devoted to 5G telecommunications.
Both Ghosh and Enright attended the conference as part of a larger group of UConn MSE students, and were accompanied by MSE faculty including Associate Professor Serge M. Nakhmanson (Ghosh’s Ph.D. advisor) and MSE Department Head Bryan Huey.
Ghosh’s winning poster was dedicated to designing novel organic ferroelectrics. Her research focuses on understanding the mechanisms governing the emergence of ferroelectricity in these materials. She uses machine learning and data-driven approaches both to search for potential novel organic ferroelectrics and to establish design principles for achieving new functionalities. IMS congratulates Ayana and Lucas!
IMS/Physics PhD student, Erin Curry, is a recipient of the Marshall Walker Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in the Department of Physics. Erin was cited for her excellent service as a teaching assistant during the development of active learning “studio” style physics instruction. This innovative curricular overhaul combines research-supported practice of combining laboratory, lecture, and discussion in a new setting, presenting a strong break from the traditional, lecture hall plus lab approach of decades past.
Erin, who is advised by IMS faculty member Dr. Jason Hancock, was cited for her contributions in creating and developing original “tutorial” exercises in Spring 2019 Phys 1601: Fundamentals of physics for physics majors and again as an instructor of record in Fall 2019 Phys 1501: Physics for Engineers. Tutorials are problem sets deliberately constructed to serve specific learning goals and a popular and effective new element of the studio physics in addition to the traditional lecture and laboratory components. Congratulations, Erin!
There are locks and there are keys. And, thanks to a little twist of fate, it looks like UConn researchers have collaborated to find the right key to fit that lock.
The big news is reflected in a cover story in the July 2019 issue of the journal Nanoscale. The lead authors are graduate students, Armin Tahmasbi Rad and Shipra Malik, representing the labs of Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Dr. Raman Bahal, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The science is impressive. It involves the delivery of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) — artificial mimics of DNA that can bind to the target DNA or RNA and are useful in gene therapy and diagnostic techniques — which are synthesized in Bahal’s lab — to the cancerous cells that make up malignant tumors via minute anon-sized discs – developed in Nieh’s lab. These nanodiscs are approximately 200 times smaller than the red blood cells that feed a tumor’s growth and they are exactly the right size and shape to penetrate the tumor and deliver the cancer killing PNAs to their targets.
As summarized in Nanoscale, the research demonstrates that the novel platform for PNA delivery holds great promise for controlling gene expression and regulation through improvements in accessibility of molecular targets and increased specificity of cancer fighting agents.
MSE graduate student Ayana Ghosh has been named as the recipient of the prestigious John Tanaka Graduate Student Fellowship award, which is given annually to a UConn graduate student in the United States’ oldest honor society, Phi Kappa Phi.
The award, which was established in 1993, is named after chemistry professor emeritus and former Director of the Honors Programs, Dr. John Tanaka. Professor Tanaka led Phi Kappa Phi at UConn for many years during his 45 year career at UConn. He also taught inorganic chemistry, and advised many undergraduate and graduate students. Although he passed away seven years ago in April 2012, his name lives on in this prestigious award.
Ayana said she is “very pleased” to have won the award.
“This type of recognition always acts as a catalyst for me to continue my daily efforts in research, learn more, and perform better,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to receive exceptional mentorship from my advisors at UConn, Pfizer Inc. and Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as my previous institutions that have shaped my academic career to date. I wish to continue performing cutting-edge research on a wide-range of materials with present-day and prospective technological and medical applications while being engaged in events to encourage younger individuals to pursue careers of their choices, especially in STEM fields.”
Armin Tahmasbi Rad, Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh’s group, along with Leila Daneshmandi, Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering have developed a system to grow and test tumor cells outside the body with a goal of more efficient patient treatment.
UConn Today reports that the technology could potentially greatly reduce the trial-and-error aspect of cancer treatment that is exhausting, expensive, and potentially fatal for the patient.
The researchers are aided by support from Accelerate UConn, the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps site at UConn.
Mark E. Johnson, an undergraduate student in Dr. Menka Jain’s group, has received Honorable Mention in the 2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).
The GRFP recognizes and supports individuals early in their graduate training in STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) fields.
Mark’s proposal for the GRFP was based on research he has conducted over the last three semesters in Dr. Jain’s lab.
Mark will graduate in May with a dual major in physics and chemistry. While he has received offers from many graduate programs, Mark will begin his graduate studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Postdoctoral researchers from the Institute of Materials Science and the Materials Science and Engineering Department will hold their 1st Symposium on Computational Research on Thursday, July 27. IMS News asked Dr. S. Pamir Alpay, Head of the Materials Science and Engineering Department and postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Sanjeev Nayak, coordinator for the symposium, about their expectations for the first year of the event:
How did the idea of this symposium come about?
As new students joined our group, there was a requirement to introduce them to the field. But, materials science and engineering is such a vast subject covering all the disciplines of STEM, it was desirable to have them see beyond the research interests of the group. Hence, a thought came that we should arrange a symposium. From another perspective, there existed no formal postdoctoral researcher’s activity in the IMS/MSE and we know their important contribution in research. This symposium was planned such that IMS/MSE postdoctoral researchers could take the lead, discuss their research and create an active and brainstorming session. The IMS/MSE postdoctoral members from modeling and theory division voluntarily came forward and hence the symposium touches the theoretical aspect.
What are your expectations for the symposium and what does success look like?
Our expectations for this symposium are at the individual research level. For example, if someone is stuck in a bottleneck situation pertaining to one’s research, it would be easy to seek help from a more experienced researcher in that field. We expect that the students and researchers would make themselves known to one other so that each would know where to find help. Maintaining a list of participants of this (and future) symposium will provide that necessary contact information. Our measure of success is simple, more active engagement with people and a sense of collective academics. The tone of this symposium is at the level of idea-exchange and concept development. If we can set a playground for conceptual development, naturally we would be doing creative research. We are glad that people from departments like, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Sciences, and Electrical and Computer Engineering have signed-up for the symposium.
As this is being billed as the 1st, what are your expectations for future symposia?
We believe that isolated events cannot accomplish the broad goals and hence we encourage annual meetings of this kind. This year’s program is an IMS/MSE postdoctoral activity and attendees have signed up from various departments of UConn and one guest from the Roger Williams University, Rhode Island. We can see that this type of symposium on fundamental research raises a lot of interest among researchers. Our effort for future symposia would be to accommodate selected experts from universities, national labs and industries from across the nation. Such gatherings will help our young members to assimilate, build up networks and possibly also find jobs.