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REU Results: Nanotechnology Undergraduate Research Experience Interview with Elizabeth Tom

The SENIC Undergraduate Internship in Nanotechnology (SUIN) program is a major component of the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor (SENIC), at the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology at Georgia Tech, that focuses on providing undergraduates in engineering the chance to spend a summer conducting research in a world-class collaborative lab with prominent Georgia Tech researchers. GT-IEN hosted 6 undergraduates from various U.S. colleges over the summer that engaged in hands-on research in a number of fields of nanotechnology.

Over the months of the 2016 Fall Semester, the IEN will be highlighting each of the six undergraduate participants, their research topics and experience in the labs, as well as what they gained from the program and their time at Georgia Tech, and in Atlanta. Our second interviewee from the program is Elizabeth Tom, an undergraduate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan.

Name: Elizabeth Tom
Mentor: Dmitriy Boyuk
PI: Dr. Michael Filler, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

1. What sparked your interest in engineering and what problems are you hoping to help solve as an engineer?

In school I’ve gravitated towards the math and sciences. In high school I ended up taking a lot of different science classes, and I was good at math so engineering seemed like a natural next step. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I knew that I did well in math and science and that I wanted to solve problems. I think it was a pretty natural choice to go into engineering and I chose to go into Chemical Engineering not really having a good idea of what it was. I took some classes and thankfully ended up liking it, if possible I would like to solve problems within sustainability, alternative energy, or environmental remediation.

2. What research are you conducting at GT and what applications do you feel this research may have?

"Currently I am working with Dr. Michael Filler and his lab. I am studying the effects of oxide coatings on plasmonic Si nanowires in order to understand and engineer their optical properties. Throughout the summer I’ve gotten to use different tools in the clean room and characterization facility to conduct the research.

The interactions between coatings and Si nanowires are significant due to their use of silicon, which as a material is cheap, abundant, and ubiquitous. As a result, the variety of applications and devices grows immensely due to the accessibility of silicon. These interactions would have value in applications such as thermal transport and energy harvesting"

3. What has been your favorite lab activity/ tool training/ etc. thus far and why?

I think my favorite lab activity/tool would probably be the ones used for visual characterization, specifically the scanning electron microscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. While fabricating & processing the wires via atomic layer deposition tools and being in the clean room has been a really positive experience, I think seeing the results and characteristics of the structures is pretty interesting. I like seeing the outcomes and proof that something I helped make exists.

4. Do you feel this REU experience has helped prepare you for working in a collaborative laboratory environment and furthered your education goals?

I feel like this REU experience definitely has. Before this summer I didn’t really have a strong understanding of how research was conducted in a collaborative environment nor the experience of working in a research group with other researchers. I think that this experience has definitely opened my mind to the possibility of grad school and pursuing a Ph.D., as well as contributing to collaborative research back at my university.

5. What are your plans post-undergraduate?

This summer has opened my eyes to the possibility of career as a research scientist and I’ve received great advice from the graduate researchers about applying for, and attending graduate school but currently I’m split between pursuing this option and something in industry. I’ve had some research experience, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to experience industry through an internship next summer and have a better idea of how I feel about each one.

6. What is your favorite thing about/impression of GA Tech and ATL?

I’ve really enjoyed getting to explore and visit different places in Atlanta. This is my first time in the area, so it’s been really fun getting to visit different parks and see different places. Georgia Tech’s campus is amazing and Atlanta is a beautiful city. Everyone’s been really welcoming and I’ve had a really good time so far!