End Of The Year Activites

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful spring weather. During these last several weeks I’ve been preparing for the UCSB 2014 Undergraduate Research Colloquium. This event will allow many of UCSB’s undergraduate researchers the opportunity to present their research to the public at large. And, for many of us, this will be our first time presenting our research projects in a formal setting.

Within the last week I was notified that my abstract had been accepted and that I would be allowed to present a poster containing information about my research project at the event. Although I’m thrilled to have been accepted into the event, I must admit that I’m a bit nervous. This will be my first time presenting information pertaining to my research project to a large and non-student based audience and I’m not quite sure what to expect. These last few days, I’ve spent much of my time collecting/sorting through a large amount of research data from which I will be choosing several pieces to present at the colloquium. Initially, I was fairly perplexed with regards to how to portray my data in such a way as to be understood by an audience outside of my field; I’ve since had a very insightful discussion with my mentor and will be attempting to create a readily digestible analogy between our research project  and baseball, oddly enough.

I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time on my research project itself. My group has been seeing some greatly improved data as of late and as a result, I’ve been very busy gathering/analyzing data. Experiencing these improvements in our research project has helped provide me with a ton of motivation to keep charging through these last few weeks of my undergraduate career.

As I realize that this may be my last research blog as an undergraduate here at UCSB, I’d like to provide some advice for current/future UCSB undergrads. First off, I highly suggest that anyone curious about undergraduate research begin talking to professors whom they are interested in working with as soon as possible. Although it might feel uncomfortable approaching a professor at first, I’ve found the vast majority of my professors to be easy to talk to and welcoming of discussion pertaining to their research. Additionally, most appear to be very willing to let undergrads take part in their research projects, at least at some level. I would also like to add that, if you have room in your schedule, you might find it beneficial to take some challenging courses that are outside of your particular field of interest or major. I for instance, am an electrical engineering major but have also taken some courses in the mechanical engineering and materials departments. Though these courses were indeed challenging and time consuming, I’ve since found them to have greatly enriched my overall understanding of many of the basic concepts that one learns as an EE. Additionally, I’ve made some great friends through such courses and have also had some very insightful discussions with the professors of these classes.


I hope to see many of you at the upcoming colloquium!



Perception: an invaluable tool

This quarter has been absolutely brutal. This quarter has been challenging yet fruitful. Can’t it be spring break already? How are we already in week 10!?

Perception can be both a powerful tool and one’s own worst enemy. Throughout this quarter I’ve noticed that my state of mind has often volleyed between both of these arenas. This quarter has been very challenging. At times I’ve felt completely overwhelmed and at odds with the world. Contrastingly though, there have also been many instances in which I’ve felt absolutely ecstatic, eager to face the challenges of the day and days ahead.

Lately, I’ve really begun to become cognizant of the power of perception. I’ve started to understand how simple changes in my perception of workload or challenges can drastically alter my motivation levels and as a result, my ability to get work done. Often times it can be very easy to feel helplessly overloaded by school, work, social commitments and life in general, but, I’ve found that simply embracing a positive outlook with regards to one’s circumstances can truly aid in increasing productivity and goal achievement.

In the chance that some of you are curious about my means of perception improvement I’ll present some of my personal favorite perception improving recipes which help me get a grip on a challenging situation, stress, or simply life in general. To start, I find exercise to be an invaluable tool for staving off stress. If I’m feeling extremely tense or unsettled exercise really helps me return to a more relaxed, yet motivated state of mind.  I also frequently refer to a somewhat unorthodox, but highly motivating “mind game.” In the case that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try to find a role model, be it celebrity, athlete, scientist, really anybody—and I try to “compete” with them. To elaborate, I try to find someone known for working very hard and I then try to outwork them in terms of time dedication, albeit usually in a completely different context. I admit that this method may seem rather unorthodox, but nevertheless, it really helps me to stay motivated and also forces me to acknowledge that there are many others out there who have faced and surmounted much greater barriers than the ones I’m currently trying to pass. Last but not least I’ll share my favorite method for attaining a quick boost in mood: a breath of fresh air. Simply stepping outside of the lab, library, home, or other confined environment for a few moments and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world really helps boost my mood in almost any circumstance.

I am also curious to see what tools you use to improve your outlook, mood, or perception. If you have anything that helps you get back in the zone please do share below.

Transistors and the art of cooking

I distinctly remember the first words enthusiastically spoken from one of my professors last year prior to the start of the first lecture. “So, which of you like to cook.” Over the last several months, this seemingly non-sequitur question, directed at undergraduate students eager to learn about transistors, has started to resonate with me.

Anyone who has ever tried creating a new recipe is familiar with the wide array of sentiments associated with the cooking process. Anticipation, excitement, anguish, disappointment: all proper terms describing the whirlwind of emotions which pulse through the veins of every chef as they try to perfect the world’s next delicacy. Such chefs are also undoubtedly familiar with the extreme levels of precision and effort needed to create something truly noteworthy.

In my research project we are working on developing a novel type of transistor. Much of the difficulty in implementing this transistor stems from the complexity of the material foundations which constitute the device. Current devices we are working on often consist of around 7-10 layers of various semiconductors/alloys of different widths, purities, and doping concentrations. Even if such designs were perfect in themselves one doesn’t have to try too hard to imagine the difficulty in fabricating this device when this is done at the micrometer level (think diameter of hair).

(not our group’s transistor design, but similar in complexity. Think worlds smallest birthday cake).

As of late, I have personally been involved in testing/data analysis. My lab setup includes a microscope, a DC probe station used to connect the transistors to a power supply station, and a computer from which I am able to gather many different data characteristics. I then analyze this data using computer software and seek out data trends/comparisons to earlier devices. The testing process can lead to a contorted roller-coaster of feelings/sentiments. On one hand, I’ve seen parts of our devices develop significant improvements, which is very exciting, but there are also times when certain device components deteriorate. When I first undertook such testing tasks I became frustrated by this notion that improvements and deteriorations can happen simultaneously and unintentionally. I’ve since begun to view these occurrences as beneficial learning experiences, which we then try and equate back to earlier manipulations in our designs.

Although inherently an imperfect analogy, I believe my professor last year was fairly accurate in his comparison of transistor design/development to cooking. Both require planning, time, precision, accuracy, and an ability to accept failure and then learn from it. So, to anyone else out there considering being involved in a transistor based research project my first question to you is do you like to cook?