Graduate Student Becomes Research Associate at National Lab

Dr. Tedi-Marie Usher began her journey with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a graduate student who was interested in materials science and engineering. Over the course of her graduate studies, Usher went to ORNL several times to conduct experiments that eventually led to her decision to take a position as a postdoctoral research associate there in April, 2016.

Located in Oak Ridge, Tenn., ORNL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest research laboratory. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the laboratory now has two of the best neutron sources, the High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), which enable scientists to study the structures of materials and biological systems, areas where Usher has researched independently for her dissertation, “Local and Average Structures in Ferroelectrics under Perturbing Fields.”

SNS is available to researchers worldwide with varying degrees of experience; a proposal of research must be submitted and reviewed by independent scientists and the most promising proposals are chosen to become experiments.

Usher was hired to work with SNS where she uses advanced methods to study the relationships between size, shape and surface molecules of nanocrystals of functional materials.

Usher became interested in materials science and engineering at the University of Florida, where she received a B.S. (2010); she continued her studies there for the next two years to receive her M.S. (2012), and recently graduated with her Ph.D. from NC State (2016). Usher said that she and other graduate students worked with Dr. Jacob L. Jones at the University of Florida, then chose to follow him to NC State when he relocated in 2013. Jones is now a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and is the director and principal investigator of the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network. He is also the director of the Analytical Instrumentation Facility, and a University Faculty Scholar.

Usher’s research interests are in crystallography, materials science, and X-ray/neutron scattering techniques. Some of her professors said that her research has made important advancements in how to measure structure-property relationships of solid-state materials.

She conducts experiments in which electric fields, elevated temperature, stress, or other stimuli are applied to the samples, which places the materials in conditions similar to those found in applications. In the future, Usher says she would like to figure out some of the fundamental aspects of the materials that she is working with and share those discoveries with other researchers.