REU Participant has an Active Summer of Lab Experience with Passive "Smart Concrete"

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 seventh installment of interviews with the students who spent their summer conducting research at Georgia Tech. Sam Lucas, a Chemical Engineering major at Mississippi State University, spent his summer in the laboratory of Dr. Kimberly Kurtis; Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Scholarship & Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, conducting research with lab mentor Bill Jin, currently a research fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

What sparked your interest in engineering and what problems are you hoping to help solve as an engineer?
My interest was sparked by the idea of integrating nanomaterials with biomedical applications. I hope to conduct research and development in the biomedical industry to solve problems ranging from drug delivery to medical implants and tissue regeneration using novel materials.

What research are you conducting at GT and what applications do you feel this research may have?
I am conducting research on photocatalysis in ‘smart cement’. The cement has properties that allow it to absorb and sequester atmospheric pollutants such as NOx . These pollutants cause health issues, such as exacerbating asthma, and acid rain. The passive removal of the pollutants by infrastructure built from ‘smart cement’ could be a great materials for cities facing population and vehicle growth surges in need of new highways and bridges.

What has been your favorite lab activity/ tool training/ etc. thus far and why?
In my previous research experience, I’ve done mainly wet chemistry. At Georgia Tech I’ve had the chance to train on several characterization methods, such as X-ray diffraction and Raman spectography.  I’ve enjoyed all of the new experience. It’s really cool to have easy access to so many advanced tools that I would not necessarily get to use in a basic university laboratory.

Do you feel this REU experience has helped prepare you for working in a collaborative laboratory environment and furthered your education goals?
It is a bit early for me to make a final determination on this question, but thus far, I believe so. This is not my first experience in a lab, but it is my first experience where I’ve been able to engage 40 hours a week as a colleague/collaborator, rather putting in what work I can in my spare time.  As a result, this experience has helped me focus on my educational and career trajectory and ultimate goals. Additionally, the guidance provided by my graduate student mentor, Bill Jin, and my P.I., Dr. Kimberly Kurtis, has been invaluable in gaining a better understanding of both the research process and research as a career.

What are your plans post-undergraduate?
I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, Materials Science or Biomedical Engineering with an ultimate goal of R&D work in biomed.

What is your favorite thing about/impression of GA Tech and ATL?
It is really neat to be on a campus with so many buildings dedicated to specific aspects of engineering and with so many specialized labs. I also have really enjoyed the chance to live/work in a large urban campus environment, compared to the small college town where I spend most of my time.

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

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  • Sam Lucas IEN REU