Metallic glasses are metal alloys that have been cooled rapidly, so that the atoms end up in a “glassy” (rather than crystalline) state; this change in atom arrangement can result in significantly different material properties. The summer before I started graduate school, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Won-Kyu Rhim in the Johnson Group at Caltech, using an electrostatic levitator is used to study these properties. (illustration: Rhim et al.)
Diffusion and flow on surfactant spheres (i.e., soap film bubbles):
For the 2004 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, my team and I designed and conducted microgravity fluid flow experiments (performed on NASA’s KC-135). In response to fluctuations in the microgravity environment (+/-.02g), dye would move around a bubble’s surface, sometimes encountering the wand. A variety of flow patterns were produced, all very different from the typical small-scale eddies and mixing that occur at the bottom of a 1g bubble.
Growth and characterization of magnetoresistive semiconductors:
Magnetoresistivity is the desirable ability to tune how much electricity a material conducts by putting it in a magnetic field (which you can then turn up and down). For my undergraduate thesis work with Prof. Benjamin Crooker, I worked on growing iron-doped indium-antimonide semiconductors that would have this feature, and on developing a technique to study samples’ magnetic properties using an existing polarized laser set-up (instead of having to send them to a SQUID magnetometer).
For my undergraduate chemistry research, I worked with Prof. James P. Kirby, synthesizing chemicals for the study of salt-bridge hydrogen bonds. Akin to a chemical Velcro, these bonds can, when the two sides stick together, cause an attached component to undergo a chemical excitation, producing a visible glow and making it a prime candidate for application as a chemical detector. (illustration: Kirby et al.)
Sponge growth and microscopy:
During my second summer internship with Dr. Greg Zimmerli at NASA Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, I cultivated marine sponges (to be studied as analogues to bone cells), and prepared slides and researched fluorophores for a two-photon fluorescence, confocal microscope. (photos: bone, sponge)