This past semester, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do research with Professor Madhukar in the Nanostructures Materials and Devices Laboratory. Through the Merit Research Grant I was awarded, I was able to get paid to do cutting edge research! Professor Madhukar and his team are looking at how quantum dots can be used to improve solar energy.
Finding a research job, especially as a freshman, was definitely an intimidating, though not impossible, task. I began by doing my own research about the different types of projects going on in Viterbi. I chose the five I found most interesting and contacted the professors in charge of those projects. Two replied and said they would be interested in taking me on, and then I got to choose the project that sounded the most rewarding!
I mostly worked under the guidance of one of Professor Madhukar’s PhD level student, Zach. Zach was a fantastic mentor and was really good at explaining the difficult concepts about nanotechnology that I have yet to learn in the classroom. I spent the first month learning all about the science behind the research done in the group and shadowing Zach in the lab. The learning process was long and required a lot of outside time, but it was extremely rewarding. After Zach felt like I had mastered the basics, he gave me a project to analyze his work more closely. This involved me doing a series of experiments and compiling a lot of data. Finally, Zach mentored me through writing a professional scientific paper about my discoveries.
Although I spent a lot of time on my work, and finding a project was no easy task, the skills I have developed this semester are so valuable I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The key to getting a research job early is to be persistent, open minded, and most importantly excited about what you are doing! Professor Madhukar even asked me to continue working for him this summer, which I am very excited to do!