What are you doing in the featured picture?
We're using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to look at the structure of silver nanocubes that were synthesized in my lab by a student (Chemistry major Dan Decato).
What kind of research do you do?
Our current project is poised at the interface of materials science and chemistry. The research is focused on the synthesis of nanomaterials with well defined surface chemistry. Nanotech has really taken off in the past couple of decades, with a myriad of proposed applications in electronics, optics, medical diagnostics, cancer detection and treatment, greener fuels and catalysis…. but if we are unable to precisely control the chemistry of nanomaterials (which dictates much of what the particles can do) we can't fully complete their journey from the edges of scientific frontier to mainstream technology.
How are students involved in you research?
While I design the projects and guide their research efforts, the students actively carry out the work on a daily basis and push our knowledge forward. Each student has their own specific project that relates to a larger goal. Because the work is really a collaboration, the students have taken ownership of the work- not simply carrying out prescribed experiments, but also spending hours studying current science literature and incorporating their own ideas into their projects. Seeing my students move towards becoming independent scientists is one of the most rewarding aspects of laboratory research.
What do you love about nanoscience?
One of the best things is that, relatively speaking it is such a new field. As a student I remember being impressed by the stories behind the scientists that made the greatest discoveries of the 20th century, who developed the foundation of scientific facts that we pass along to our students in the classroom. Perhaps it's a bit grandiose, but it's fun to think that nanoscience is moving towards becoming a standard textbook-worthy discipline, and I have had the pleasure of being among the many scientists who worked to develop this field while it was so young.