After a long flight from London, it was nice to return to the US for the annual Materials Research Society Spring Conference held in sunny San Francisco. Thousands of professionals, enthusiasts, and students gathered from around the world for presentations, events, and exhibits, spanning across two conference hotels and the enormous Moscone West Convention Center. It was an incredible experience, and I am very thankful for such an amazing opportunity.
On Monday, the conference started off with tutorial sessions on a wide variety of interesting topics. I attended a workshop on biomolecular motors for nanodevices, and then a session about characterizing nanowires. That night, I got to attend the Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience, which is one of the most coveted awards in materials science, right below the Nobel Prize. This year’s winner, Dr. Hongyou Fan, presented his research developing a new technique to synthesize nanomaterials.
Over the course of the next few days, I spent my time listening to presentations by leading experts in the field of energy storage. It was inspiring to listen to world-renown scientists such as Dr. Yi Cui who is doing remarkable work on batteries, and Dr. Harry Atwater who has brought the next-generation of solar cells from conception to market. I also got to hear about some new technologies that people are working on, such as waterproof and stretchable batteries, energy storage cloths, and self-charging piezoelectric supercapacitors.
Other than technical sessions, I browsed around the exhibits, where scientific instrument companies unveiled their latest and greatest products. It was fascinating to see such high tech equipment being presented and demonstrated like vacuum cleaners at a home expo. I also got to hear a panel discussion about the difference between industry, government, and academic careers in science. I learned a lot from this session since they really articulated what employers are looking for in potential candidates.
On Thursday night, I had the opportunity to present the research that I did this past summer in the IOU-NA program. My research focused on the fabrication of nanostructured carbon electrodes for supercapacitors. Our poster was selected in the top 9 out of over 550 posters presented that night as a nominee for the best poster award! Throughout the night, thousands of people walked by, and many stopped to read and ask questions about what we did. I also had the opportunity to network with professors, postdocs, and grad students who have similar interests in the field of energy storage.
The last day, I got to hear my mentor, Dr. Palash Gangopadhyay, give a presentation on the project we worked on. More people showed up to his talk than we expected! Dr. Gangopadhyay did very well, and I was reminded of how fortunate I am to be working with such a great scientist.
After a long week and many cups of coffee, I left the MRS conference with more excitement for research than ever before. It was so motivating to be amongst so many smart people, all with the similar goal of advancing science. I learned many new things from this conference, but to me, the best part of the experience was being able to spend so much time with Dr. Gangopadhyay. Over the course of the week, he taught me so much about science, and the hard work that it takes to be a leader of technological advancement.
I am extremely grateful for CIAN and the IOU-NA program for providing me the funding to do summer research and attend this conference. Now, I’ve made it back to the UK, missing Chipotle burritos, but excited to learn more science.
Scott Tan participated in the Summer 2014 Integrated Optics for Undergraduate Native American (IOU-NA) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. Since then he’s gone on to do a study abroad program at the University of Oxford. In the video below Scott speaks about his experiences at the IOU-NA REU program, part of the UROC program at the University of Arizona. Learn more about and to apply to the IOU-NA program.