Fall 2013 Award Winner:  Ryan Swoboda

Breakthrough Technologies Scholarship Award Recipient Fall 2012Ryan was a Senior at Stanford University at the time of winning his award, and is pursuing both his BS and an MS in Materials Science and Engineering.   To date, he has taken both lab and lecture-based courses on bionanotechnology, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and the synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials.

This past summer, Ryan participated in the Materials Science Reseach Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program at Stanford.   “My work involved components for both synthesis and characterization of novel nanomaterials”, said Ryan.  “Specifically, through harnessing the steric power of recently discovered Diamondoids, i.e, molecular building blocks of the Diamond lattice, my experiments directed the self-assembly of novel chalcogenide materials (sulfur-metal inorganic materials). These materials have application in quantum computing, biolabelling, and potentially hydrogen storage”.  He plans to continue with this, or similar research involving synthesizing complex materials, for the next couple of years.

In addition to his scientific endeavors, Ryan also embraces the pragmatic side of his field.  “Materials science sits at the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology and technology.  It is a construct of multiple fields and collaboration is critical for solving the numerous problems presented in the aforementioned fields.   My coursework and research challenges me to see things from different perspectives, and to communicate more clearly with a variety of people having differing views.”

Ryan’s career aspirations include a mix of both industry and advanced studies, with an eye towards fuel cell technology advancements or environmental sustainability efforts.   “I aim to work in industry for a few years before deciding whether or not to pursue a PhD.  I haven’t looked in detail at industry positions, but from speaking with colleagues and professors, it seems that an industry atmosphere of some sort will help me to formulate a long term career path.”

Our best wishes for meaningful work and success go out to Ryan!



Spring 2014 Award Winner:  Natalie Briggs

NatalieBriggsNatalie won the award heading into her Senior year at the University of Washington while pursuing her Materials Science & Engineering degree.

Her first exposure to MSE was through a seminar course, where she discovered just how broad and versatile the field really is.   “Through the MSE program, I realized that I could pursue anything from human tissue engineering to airplane design, to the creation of electronic devices.  I immediately felt at home in a department that unified all of these areas under one roof.”

Natalie is certainly exploring the field.  She has participated in a NASA sponsored program where she carried out research on a mineralization directing peptide to artificially grow tooth enamel.   She has studied Crystallography, Electronic Properties, Functional Properties, and Materials Characterization, all of which has given her a basis for more in-depth laboratory work.    This summer, she will be at the University of Saarland Institute for Experimental Physics in Saarbruecken, Germany.   While there, she will be carrying out research on the effects of metallic and organic islands on graphene.

Natalie is also conducting research through the Nanoscale Optoelectronics Laboratory at UW.  “My current  research involves isolating, identifying and transferring monolayers of graphene. Combining graphene with other 2D crystals allows for the fabrication of new types of electronic devices. In addition, I have isolated layers of WSe2, a material with interesting optoelectronic properties. Further research will revolve around the idea that photon emission from WSe2 may be controllable through the application of strong electric fields.  Successful demonstration of this principal will allow for the creation of new, cutting edge devices.”


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