Students present at Material Research Society Conference

Andrew B. Smith and Michael McMaster, students of Physics and Astronomy, presented a poster at the Material Research Society Conference in Boston the week of November 28, 2011.

The poster Andrew and Michael presented involves research being done in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Dr. Tom Oder’s Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Laboratory, which currently focuses on optimizing the production of smooth, very high purity Zinc Oxide thin films. They then dope these high quality films, that is, inject specific foreign elements into the ZnO to adjust its electronic properties. The subsequent semiconductor material can be used to make, in the case of ZnO, optoelectronic devices such as LEDs and transparent electrodes.

ZnO is an attractive semiconductor, at least concerning optoelectronic applications, because of its low cost and low toxicity compared to competing materials. The negative doping of ZnO is well-established in industry, but the essential next step for ZnO’s advancement as a competitive semiconductor is to unlock the key to positive doping, which has so far proven to be a real challenge for researchers including ourselves. Solving this problem would open the way for many new and more efficient applications and devices.

Travel funds for the trip were provided by the College of STEM and the Office of the Provost.

YSU Materials students work with NSF Research Center through Case connection

A growing new research effort at YSU originates in the Photonic, Optical, and Electronic Materials (POEM) group, begun by YSU physics faculty and now including engineering and chemistry faculty. In physics, for example, the POEM group has been actively recruiting students for the past three summers in cutting-edge research supported by multiple National Science Foundation grants, as well as grants from the State of Ohio Third Frontier Program. Ongoing support for YSU student research into polymers as photonic and optical materials has been provided through YSU’s affiliation with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Science & Technology Center for Layered Polymeric Systems (CLiPS). CLiPS is a multi-institution collaborative research and education Center begun in 2007 with now ten years of pledged NSF support at nearly $40M. Four YSU faculty members have participated in CLiPS, including Drs. Andrews, Crescimanno, and Oder in Physics and Dr. Price in Chemical Engineering. In addition to material support, research collaboration opportunities, and support for off-campus research experiences for YSU students, direct support to YSU as an affiliate of CLiPS is anticipated to total over $300k. Since 2008, YSU faculty has co-authored at least seven refereed publications partially supported through CLiPS with several more in preparation and many including YSU students as co-authors.

A major component of CLiPS programs is the training of undergraduate students at Affiliates Programs, like YSU, and the recruitment of undergraduates into summer research experiences and, eventually, graduate research in polymer science & engineering. In addition to their research at YSU, POEM students have participated each summer in research experiences for undergraduates (REUs) at nearby Case Western Reserve University, the lead institution for CLiPS. The REU program introduces students to CLiPS technologies, polymer science and STEM research and serves as an important pipeline for American students into CLiPS graduate programs. This year the first four American students accepted into the CWRU PhD program in Macromolecular Science & Engineering were REU alumni, including James Aldridge, graduate of Youngstown State University, who joined the prestigious research group of Dr. Eric Baer, Director of CLiPS, in June, 2011. As part of the REU experience, students work as members of CLiPS Layered Research Teams for ten weeks under the mentorship of a graduate student. In addition to daily research activities, REU students participate in weekly program meetings during which they hone their presentation skills, attend lectures in various areas of polymer science and engineering, and discuss professional ethics. The summer program culminates in the Northeast Ohio Undergraduate Polymer Symposium, an event showcasing the summer research work of undergraduates from CWRU, the University of Akron, Kent State University, and NASA.

Dr. John Feldmeier named to Portfolio Review Committee

Dr. John Feldmeier, Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was named to the portfolio review committee for the National Science Foundation’s program in Astronomical Sciences. The NSF funds a significant portion of the astronomy research across the country, in addition to its role as the leading funding agency for scientific research in the U.S.

Every ten years, astronomers across the nation make a list of research priorities called the Decadal Survey. However, this time, the survey was done before the global economic collapse. The portfolio review committee will advise the NSF on how to proceed with the planned projects.

Dr. Feldmeier said his involvement on the committee ensures that YSU STEM students have the opportunity to proceed with their scientific research at the university. He added that many large universities like Harvard and Princeton are involved in this process, and his position on the committee will raise YSU’s profile with those major research universities.

“I am greatly honored to be part of the NSF Astronomy Portfolio Review. We hope to find the best way for astronomy to move forward in a very difficult environment,” he said.

For more information about the portfolio review, visit the program website.

Physics & Astronomy – Summer 2011 Student REU’s

Sean Robinson (right), junior Physics major, completed an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Case Western Reserve University this past summer. This National Science Foundation-sponsored REU was held in conjunction with the NSF-funded Center for Layered Polymer Systems (CLiPS) led by CWRU. YSU’s Photonic, Optical and Electronic Materials Group is affiliated with the CLiPS program and part of the Center of Excellence in Materials Science and Engineering.

Sean, who did research related to the “Optics of Multilayered Polymer Films,” was the fourth YSU student to be selected for this continuing research. He was preceded by YSU STEM students Jessica Shipman, James Aldridge and Kyle Comeau. William Hill (left), also a Physics junior, did research on “Mathematical Probabilities” through an REU at Clemson University.