"The facilities are impressive, and they allow me a wide range of approaches to studying my materials. I’m fully in charge of my own lab facility, and I’ve designed, built and run my experiments from beginning to end. The amount of freedom provided to me has been remarkable."
Exploring Photonic Materials Through Exciton Dynamics
I studied in the USA for a BSc in Astrophysics and an MSc in Applied Physics. The opportunity to study in the UK with a prestigious materials research group at Surrey was too good to pass up. I love space and astrophysics, but having the ability to perform materials research to advance renewable energy applications was very attractive. There is something special about holding something tangible that you’ve made and be able to describe its fundamental properties. It fulfils a primal need to both create in and understand the world around me.
I’m studying the ultrafast dynamics of two-dimensional semiconductors. These are materials that are nearly atomically thin and have unique properties compared to bulk materials.
For example, two-dimensional perovskites have applications in solar cells, light emitting diodes and quantum computing. They’re cheaply produced, and they have tunable electronic properties that make them idea for a wide variety of applications.
My supervisor, Professor Jeremy Allam, brings a long history of excellent work in ultrafast measurements. My secondary supervisor, Dr Wei Zhang, is a rising star in the field of perovskite solar cells. By combining elements from each area, we’ve carved out a fascinating project to work on.
The facilities are impressive, and they allow me a wide range of approaches to studying my materials. I’m fully in charge of my own lab facility, and I’ve designed, built and run my experiments from beginning to end. The amount of freedom provided to me has been remarkable. It’s allowed me to grow as a physicist.
Life at Surrey
While it was a bit of a culture shock coming from the Midwest United States to Surrey, the great PhD community, local pubs and the rewarding work have made it easy to feel at home. It’s been great for me and my wife to experience such a different culture.
Guildford has small-town charm, but it’s close enough to London for easy access to amazing cultural richness. Before coming here, I’d been to two plays in my entire life. But the thriving theatre scene has led me to a real love of the art. One of my great regrets of the Covid-19 lockdown has been the shutdown of the theatres. I hope they’re able to reopen before we move back to the US next year.
We’ve also taken advantage of the amazing travel opportunities. We’ve been to eight different countries and we’ve been all over the UK. It’s not something I could have imagined five years ago.
I’ve presented a theoretical research study at a virtual conference. I’ve only done experimental research up to that point. When lockdown hit, I was eager to expand my skills into the theoretical side of the field. It was an immense challenge, but the rewards are well worth it.
I’ll return to the United States with my wife and our newborn son, and I hope to work at a university there. Novel materials have always interested me and, wherever I work, I hope I’ll be able to continue to study in that area.