, , , , , , , ,

P-type Doping in Paradise, NU Intern Blogger: Rachel Beal

Other RISE Interns and myself (4th from left) before a group dinner

Other RISE Interns and myself (4th from left) before a group dinner

Greetings from sunny Santa Barbara! I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past seven weeks in a Research Internship in Science and Engineering (RISE) at the Materials Research Laboratory, University of California, Santa Barbara. Interns are funded by the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and are spread out across a variety of science, engineering, and math departments at the University.

As a temporary member of Professor Ram Seshadri’s group in the Materials Research Laboratory, I’ve investigated the synthesis of several complex palladium oxides in addition to their electrical and magnetic behavior. My project, “Electronic Doping and Dilute Magnetic Spins in Complex Palladium Oxides,” explores the possibility of spin-coupling interactions in systems doped with a small amount of Cu2+ ions via the conduction of electron holes introduced by substituting an electron-deficient cation into the oxide crystal structure, a process called “p-type” doping in Materials Science. “N-type” doping, or the introduction of additional electrons via substation instead by an electron-rich cation is paired with hole doping to make a P-N junction as a means of amplifying electric current in semiconductor technology like LEDs and lasers. The pairing of semiconductor and magnetic properties in a single material is studied in the field of “spintronics,” and could have exciting technological applications like an instant-on computer where the hard-drive and processor are combined in a single device—computer memory is magnetic whereas logic is performed by semiconducting microchips.

After attending a seminar given by the NU Office of Fellowships during SummerFest this past spring, I looked in to the different Materials Science research opportunities listed on the National Science Foundation website. I applied for a number of positions and jumped at the chance to take advantage UCSB’s outstanding Materials Department and Materials Research Laboratory as well as their nearly on-campus lagoon. I’ve had a rewarding experience both in and out of the laboratory, taking advantage of all the California landscape has to offer from bouldering in the Santa Ynez Mountains to bronzing on sunny beaches.

In fact, finding the right work/play balance has debatably been the key to having a research experience that has been both enjoyable and successful. My internship seems to differ from a typical nine-to-five foray into the corporate world in that it is equal parts industry and academia, and learning to set reasonable daily-research goals has allowed me to budget time for both magnetic measurements and my yoga fetish.  As a student interested more in the Research and Development side of the business sector as well as a graduate degree, immersion in to the research process has been both eye opening and affirming. As I prepare to start my junior year as a Materials Science major in Weinberg, interacting and sharing research experiences with Ph.D. students in my field has helped me solidify my long-term goals in academia and my future career. Similar REU programs are offered in a number of different science and math related fields and I would recommend the experience to any student considering graduate school—several students here are also preparing to apply for medical school—and looking to expand their academic experience beyond the shores of Lake Michigan.

And for those prepared to endure a sunburn or two shedding the pallor from a January to June hibernation in the Tech basement, I have to tell you, California ain’t bad.

Farewell from the Golden State, and see ya in September!

About the NU Intern Blogger Program
This summer, over 50 Northwestern University students will be sharing stories about what they are experiencing at their internships from across the country and internationally. Each week new students will share an inside look at what it means to be an intern. Please contact Betsy Gill, Assistant Director, Internship Services if you have any questions.