Student Spotlight: Emilio Codecido

Emilio Codecido, 2014
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Entering UCSB, Emilio Codecido always wanted to acquire hands-on experience as an undergraduate researcher. Once he discovered the research programs available to him, Emilio wasted no time and applied for a Center for Energy Efficient Materials (CEEM) Internship, a program where students train under CEEM researchers to develop solutions for critical energy challenges. For this internship Emilio persisted in reaching out to Professor John E. Bowers, whom he still works with today. “I didn’t want to give up so I knew I had to show him [Bowers] that I really wanted to do research,” says Emilio.

Working in Bowers’ lab, Emilio studies thermoelectrics–devices that convert temperature differences to electricity–which is useful for recovering wasted energy. “We started from scratch, and we had to develop measurements. But the moment everything was working the way it was meant to be, I was excited to see that my work can help improve thermoelectric efficiency,” states Emilio.

Emilio has received research funding from both CEEM and UC LEADS, which allowed him to attend several conferences and present his research. He won 3rd place with his poster presentation at the Ivy Plus Symposium, where judges from IVY league schools and students from all over the country attended. One of his greatest achievements yet!

Emilio recommends that students get involved as early as possible and develop a professional relationship and network with their mentors. “While I don’t always work with Dr. Bowers, I became close with other members of the lab” says Emilio. “I still keep in touch with them about my research.” Emilio plans to do a Bridge to PhD program and continue his research as he moves on to the next step of his academic career.

Click here to explore other UCSB student spotlights!

Organic Thermoelectrics in the Chabinyc Lab

This past summer I interned in the Chabinyc Lab at the UCSB Materials Department, studying the thermoelectric properties of conducting organic polymers.  In simple terms, we are studying plastic materials that can convert between heat and electricity.  I am a fourth year physics major at UCSB, but when I first began researching in professor Chabinyc’s lab I felt very unprepared.  My undergrad academic career left me with many holes in my knowledge of practical scientific knowledge.  I can confidently traverse Schrodingers equation and the principles of special relativity, but when my lab mentors asked me to list elements on the periodic table I drew blanks.  O-Chem was even more of a mystery.  It took me a long time and a lot of independent research to start becoming familiar with unfamiliar branches of science and lab practices.  However, by the end of the summer I felt much more comfortable making my way around the lab.

 When I had the opportunity to continue my research this quarter I was expecting smooth sailing.  I had already made it past the initial learning curve, so I figured things would come more as second nature.  Not true! I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Although I had become comfortable working with some p-type semiconducting polymers this summer, I was not prepared to work with n-type semiconducting polymers which are much more unstable.  I actually had to “unlearn” a lot of the procedures I had learned this summer because the new materials I’m working with are very delicate and require absolute cleanliness.  Even the smallest amount of contamination or exposure to air can ruin your samples.  Any data you get from these bad samples (if you can manage to get any) is basically useless, so it’s very important that you account for all possible sources of contamination before you began making samples.  On top of that, many properties of these polymers are time dependent, so for instance, step 2 needs to be carried out exactly 6 hours after step 1.  This can be pretty tricky to balance with a college schedule, where my classes and work hours are kind of all over the place.  Needless to say, I realized I had to do some more research and advanced planning before I could get going.  One of my mentors warned me the I would probably screw up the first couple of times, and she was right! Oh well, on to the next one.

The moral of this is there is always more to learn!  And the more I do learn, the more I realize how little I know.  In the end, I’m glad it works out like this.  Life would be boring otherwise.  Each new mystery is a new opportunity for growth, and I’m thankful to have so many supporting people guiding me through this journey.  At least now I will know better than to overestimate myself.  It can be a really beneficial and humbling experience to keep that initial feeling of ignorance I had at the start of the summer.

The UCSB Nanofabrication Facility

Located on the first floor of the engineering building the UCSB Nanofabrication Facility is an awe inspiring scientific wonderland.  As part of my research on LEDs, and laser diodes I have been granted access to the UCSB nanofabrication facility to process gallium nitride wafers which already have device layers grown on them into individual LEDs or laser diodes.

The facility is used by students as well as industry and seems to be a busy place regardless of time of day.

Inside you’ll find several corridors (or as they are more commonly referred to “bays”) branching off of a main hallway.  Each bay is lined with crazy, “mad scientist” looking equipment ranging from the ordinary microscope to huge metallic vacuum chambers with rods, windows, and wires protruding from them.

One of the bays inside the nanofab.

As an undergraduate student, having access to this facility is an amazing opportunity.  I have been able to get experience that I doubt would be possible without becoming involved in undergraduate research.  Experience ranging from just the basics of how to gown up properly and typical clean room etiquette, to the 190+ step process of turning a gallium nitride wafer into actual laser diodes.

The Nanofabrication Facility at UCSB is also an amazingly helpful and cooperative environment to work in.  Since there are people inside who range in experience from post doctoral researchers and industry professionals to the novice undergraduate intern; I was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone was very helpful and offered advice and assistance freely.  This truly makes for an amazing environment to learn in.

It also has a iris scanner to enter the building, which is just plain cool…

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!



Only a couple months left…

Graduation is coming up in just two months so I only have a little bit of time to finish up my research here at UCSB. It is both exciting and stressful thinking about finishing up my undergraduate career and moving on to other things. Undergraduate research has definitely been one of the best things I have done during my undergraduate studies. Just taking classes would have still educated me but it would not have given me the hands on practice I have received working in a lab. I am very glad to have had this experience and I am glad that I enjoy the research I have been doing. I believe that having had this type of experience in undergraduate studies will definitely help me in my future. All the skills I have learned will help aid me in graduate school and in my future career in research. I would highly recommend for anyone interested in research to pursue research in undergraduate school because it is a great experience and it helps prepare students greatly for the future than just taking classes alone.

I also recommend working in multiple labs during one’s undergraduate career in order to get a taste of the different kinds of labs out there. I have worked in a couple labs now and it was great to be able to work in different types of environments and do different kinds of work. And starting lab work earlier during undergraduate studies than later to get more experience before graduating is what I also recommend. I regret not trying to work in a lab earlier than I did, because I could have experienced more and gained even more skills before I graduated. But I am still glad that I was able to get the experiences I did through the CEEM internship and through the other labs I have worked in.