Materials Science and Engineering Student Wins First Place at National Conference

Katy Gerace, undergraduate, Materials Science and Engineering (MATse), won first place in the Technology and Engineering oral presentation category at the 2017 Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) held recently in Washington, D.C.

The ERN Conference in STEM is hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Education and Human Resources Programs (EHR), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Human Resource Development (HRD), within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR). The conference is aimed at college and university undergraduate and graduate students who participate in programs funded by the NSF HRD unit. The objectives of the conference are to help undergraduate and graduate students to enhance their science communication skills and to better understand how to prepare for science careers in a global workforce. 

Gerace’s research explores synthesis and characterization of InN, an important group-III nitride material. Group-III nitride materials consist of aluminum, indium, and gallium bonded with nitrogen. This class of materials has unique properties that make them ideal for applications in LEDs and solar cell devices. In order to fully explore the wonders of group-III nitrides, it is necessary to confine the materials to a 2D system. When the thickness of a material reaches only a few atoms, untapped electrical and optical properties can be explored. Her work focuses on synthesis and characterization of group-III nitride materials for LED applications to make white light more efficient. 

In her first semester in the research group, Gerace has utilized characterization techniques such as scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, raman spectroscopy, and photoluminescence in order to investigate 2D materials.

“My work has been super rewarding,” Gerace said. “I hope to expand upon my research thus far and develop it into a senior thesis next year.”

Gerace is working in the Redwing Research Group under Dr. Joan Redwing and is a participant in the NSF-funded Research Experiences and Mentoring (REM) program this year along with 7 other undergraduates.