Postdoc - UMass Lowell
A Maryland native, I grew up in Gaithersburg right in the backyard of NIST. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2015 with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. In the early days of my undergraduate research career, I interned as a physical science trainee at NIST for 2 summers under the supervision of Dr. Amanda Forster. This marked my introduction to polymer research where I studied the integrity of polyaramid fibers from both fielded and virgin ballistic armor packs. In the latter half of my college experience, I fabricated and characterized alloys of noble metals for plasmonic nanostructures, specifically for solar cell enhancement, under the guidance of Dr. Marina Leite.
Having had exposure to polymer engineering and photovoltaic research, I always wanted to put the two together and make some type of ubiquitous solar cell. The idea and motivation for going toward polymers was that I wanted to make solar cell string, fiber, yarn, something of that nature. At the point when I decided to come to UMass, I figured I had a decent understanding of solar cells, but no solid education in polymers. I decided to come to the home of polymer science and engineering as so described by my department head and PSE Alum, Dr. Rob Briber.
I chose UMass PSE for a few reasons, the main ones being the people, the conversations, the faculty, and probably just Conte itself. Everyone here is on a similar wavelength and it is easy to talk, collaborate, and learn from one another. Conte itself is a self-sustaining community, something I couldn’t find at the other schools I visited. Best of all, everyone in Conte can understand each other, no matter how far flung research topics end up being. The baseline of communication feels much higher here than at other institutions where material scientists may have little to no overlap, for example, between a metallurgist and ceramics researcher. We all speak and understand polymers here and that makes communication so much easier.
PSE gave me a wide range of knowledge and tools to succeed beyond graduate school. After defending my dissertation in December of 2020, I moved on to a Postdoc position at UMass Lowell under the guidance of Dr. Margaret Sobkowicz-Kline in Plastics Engineering. Here, I have been using fundamental polymer chemistry and physics to address large scale challenges in plastic recycling. I am currently investigating ways to improve enzymatic recycling of polyesters by modifying substrate material properties in energetically efficient ways. I will continue at UMass Lowell until Summer 2023 at which point I aim to move on to other endeavors.