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Lighting the Way, in College and Electronics: 1st Generation Student REU Experience

The SENIC Undergraduate Internship in Nanotechnology (SUIN) program is a major component of the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor (SENIC), at the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology at Georgia Tech, that focuses on providing undergraduates in engineering the chance to spend a summer conducting research in a world-class collaborative lab with prominent Georgia Tech researchers. GT-IEN hosted 10 undergraduates from various U.S. colleges over the summer that engaged in hands-on research in a number of fields of nanotechnology.

This is our sixth installment of interviews with the students who spent their summer conducting research at Georgia Tech. Ronald Reliford Jr. is the first-generation college attendee from his family and hails from Campti, Louisiana. Ronald is attending Northwestern State University; Natchitoches, LA, majoring in Electronics Engineering and Technologies. Mr. Reliford worked with mentor Chuan-Wei Tsou in the laboratory of Professor Shyh-Chiang Shen (ECE).

1. What sparked your interest in engineering and what problems are you hoping to help solve as an engineer?

I have always been a problem solver, so engineering naturally sparked my interest. The idea that I could possibly change the world for the better via engineering and electronics design is exciting and inspiring.

2. What research are you conducting at GT and what applications do you feel this research may have?

I am working in the lab of Professor Shen conducting research on bio-inspired optoelectronics devices. The work I am participating in is to further the understanding of why biological organisms, such as fire-flies, produce certain colors of light and how these biologically based light sources may be applied to optoelectronics for compact light sources. These low to no heat emitting light sources may be beneficially applied in healthcare diagnostics and other harsh environments where light with minimal thermal effect is necessary.

3. What has been your favorite lab activity/ tool training/ etc. thus far and why?

As my career goal is centered on circuit board design and manufacture, my favorite activity has been the access to hands-on, industry grade tools for research. I loved training on the K & S Ball-Bonder, a circuit board wiring and fabrication tool. 

4. Do you feel this REU experience has helped prepare you for working in a collaborative laboratory environment and furthered your education goals?

Yes, I believe the REU program has tremendous benefits! The hands-on experience and wealth of knowledge available here have definitely pushed me to realize my educational goals. The resource availability, whether it be a lab, tool, PI or mentor, have allowed me to be able to take the electrical engineering concepts learned in the classroom and apply it to actual experimentation. This ability to go beyond theory to practice is invaluable for undergraduate students who often do not have the chance to work in a laboratory environment.

5. What are your plans post-undergraduate?

My plans post-undergraduate include attending graduate school and pursuing a career in industry, targeting Apple or Samsung. As far as where I will attend for graduate studies, I would love to come back to Georgia Tech! Closer to home, I am considering application at the University of Texas at Dallas.

 6. What is your favorite thing about/impression of GA Tech and ATL?

My favorite thing about Georgia Tech is how the campus environment is so intellectually stimulating. Everyone I’ve interacted with has been incredibly friendly and helpful. Additionally, although the workload kept me busy, I did have a chance to see a bit of the city and it is truly quite beautiful, with great scenery and tons to do. Off campus, I truly enjoyed a trip to Stone Mountain to celebrate the 4th of July.

The SENIC REU program is funded by NSF award EEC-1757579.