MatSE Students Honored with National Awards


Congratulations to all the students who have received national-level awards!

Three students, Erick Ivan Hernandez Alvarez, Kathleen Oolman, and Grace Lu, and have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master's and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions.

Erick Ivan Hernandez Alvarez
Advisors: Andrew Smith (Bioengineering) and Andre Schleife (MatSE)

"Quantum dots are a type of light-emitting nanocrystalline semiconductors with applications in consumer electronics and in biological imaging. Today's best performing quantum dots are toxic when they degrade, preventing their widespread use. In order to design better, safer quantum dots we need to understand how the nanocrystal's composition, shape, size, and internal structure affect its optical properties. The overarching goal of my research is to use experimental and computational techniques to explore the structure-function relationship between these characteristics and the optical properties of nanocrystals."

Kathleen Oolman 
Advisors: Gina Lorenz (Physics) and David Cahill (MatSE)

"My research aims to advance fundamental understanding of the dynamics of antiferromagnetic metals. I grow and characterize epitaxial antiferromagnetic thin films and use ultrafast optics to study the heat and magnetization dynamics of these materials. The goal is to understand these properties in an effort to utilize antiferromagnetic materials in spintronic devices."

Grace Lu
Advisor: Dallas Trinkle (MatSE)

"In my research, I plan to take advantage of a variational method and generate a new, more accurate framework for modeling mass transport in multi-principal element alloys, which are alloys consisting of high concentrations of five or more base elements. This will lead to a theoretical upper bound on the diffusion coefficients and help verify the presence of sluggish diffusion in these materials."

Justin Kwok has received a Department of Energy Graduate Student Research Award
Advisor: Ying Diao (ChBE) MatSE

The selection of Justin Jonathan Kwok for the SCGSR award is in recognition of outstanding academic accomplishments and the merit of the SCGSR research proposal, and reflects Justin Jonathan Kwok’s potential to advance the Ph.D. studies and make important contributions to the mission of the DOE Office of Science.  

"My research is about understanding how flow can be used to direct the alignment and crystallization of conjugated polymers. For background, conjugated polymers are a class of organic semiconductors that have application is electronic devices such as transistors, sensors, solar cells, etc. One of its main benefits is that conjugated polymers and organic electronics are solution processable and are intrinsically flexible. However, one of the major issues is that the poor, semi-crystalline morphology of conjugated polymer films results in limited electronic performance. There have been several different approaches to address this but my project is on using fluid flow to control the conformation and crystallization of the conjugated polymers. For example, flow can potentially be used to stretch out polymer chains which can cause them to assemble more easily and with higher crystallinity. The benefit of this approach is that flow is an inherent part of all solution processing techniques so it is potentially a materials agnostic approach. What I am specifically doing is using microfluidics to subject conjugated polymers to different types and strengths of flows and measuring aspects related to their conformation and orientation in situ to see what is most effective. With the SCGSR award, I will be spending a year at Argonne National Lab to do microfluidic SAXS. I will use X-ray scattering with microfluidics to directly probe the structure of the conjugated polymers in flow."

Emily Skiba received the 2019 Institute of International Education-Graduate International Research Experiences (IIE-GIRE) Scholarship
Advisor: Nicola Perry

Emily Skiba, a 2nd year MatSE PhD student, was selected this spring to receive a prestigious IIE-GIRE Scholarship, supported by the National Science Foundation. Only 10 graduate students were chosen nationwide to receive this funding, dedicated to enabling international research collaborations and experiences for graduate students. Emily is now conducting a portion of her PhD research at the International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (I2CNER) at Kyushu University in Japan. There, she is investigating how variations in non-equilibrium complex oxide film growth conditions affect films’ structure and properties for intermediate temperature energy conversion applications. These studies complement her research in Illinois and at Argonne National Laboratory, which has focused on evaluating the local structure of these films. The scholarship also provides funding to her advisor, Prof. Nicola Perry, for the purposes of broadening international collaboration through travel to Japan and Korea this summer.

This exchange visit strengthens ongoing partnerships between Kyushu and Illinois. Prior to Emily’s trip, the Perry group hosted Yuki Abe, a visiting undergraduate researcher from Kyushu University, who worked with graduate student Haley Buckner on fabrication of a new fuel cell electrode composition. Yuki was a member of a delegation of undergraduate engineering students from Kyushu who visited the Urbana campus during February and March, through the I2CNER exchange program. Later this summer, six STEM undergraduate students from Illinois will travel to Kyushu University through the Partnerships in International Research and Education (PIRE) x-FU(s)ION project, supported by the NSF, for research experiences in the area of carbon-neutral energy. According to IIE, such international exchange visits can help students to gain “foreign language ability, cross-cultural skills, and professional experience to excel in the multinational/multicultural business environment of the 21st century.”

Michael Toriyama (MatSE graduating senior) has received a DOE Computational Science Graduate Fellowship
Advisor: Elif Ertekin

"My research has spanned diverse areas of computational materials science, including Molecular Dynamics and Density Functional Theory simulations of III-V semiconductors, photovoltaics, batteries, and thermoelectrics. Overall, I am interested in renewable energy and hope to guide materials design using computational methods and theory. I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to my mentors, advisers, colleagues, and friends who have supported me in my research; my acceptance of the DOE CSGF was largely due to their tremendous guidance. I will be attending Northwestern University in the Fall, and I will hopefully be conducting research on heterostructures and heterointerfaces of thermoelectric materials."