Jessica Nash and Matthew Burch Awarded NSF Research Fellowships

Matthew Burch and Jessica Nash, graduate students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited United States institutions. NSF Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering. *

Jessica’s proposed research involves using experimental and computational techniques to understand and improve DNA nanotechnology. As a field, DNA nanotechnology aims to use the biological self-assembly properties of DNA to create complex nanomaterials. Engineered DNA materials are being used to create systems which can communicate with cells, treat diseases, and act as components in molecular electronic devices. However, several challenges remain to be addressed to improve engineered materials. These include improved efficiency of formation, responsiveness of the final structure, control over hybridization dynamics, and interaction with other molecules for DNA based nanocomposites and smart materials. She plans to utilize multiscale modeling and experimental techniques to characterize the properties of engineered DNA structures. Jessica will work with Prof. LaBean’s DNA nanotechnology group and Prof. Yingling’s computational soft materials research group, both in MSE at NC State University.

Matt’s proposed research will focus on the characterization of flux-grown barium titanate and barium strontium titanate thin films for future electronic device applications. The flux impacts the microstructure of the thin films by increasing the kinetics of mass transport, which results in large-grained, dense films as opposed to samples without flux that are smaller grained and porous. Matt uses electron microscopy to analyze how the flux facilitates this transport and analyze other effects the flux causes within the microstructure that could affect the electronic properties of the material. Matt utilizes a number of advanced experimental techniques including an in situtransmission electron microscopy annealing that will allows observation of how the films microstructure forms with and without flux present. The eventual goal is to understand the kinetics of the annealing process with the flux present in order to optimize the microstructure for maximum performance for future electronic devices. Matt will work with Prof. Dickey’s electron microscropy group and Prof. Maria’s thin films group, both in MSE at NC State University.