Making the Most of an MRS Meeting

So the MRS meeting is now over, and we're all back home, but that means it's time to start planning ahead for your next one. As students, there's a lot for us to see and do. Here's some tips to consider when you go to your next MRS meeting.

  • If you can, go to the MRS chapter mixer. I couldn't do it at the Fall 2017 meeting because my flight got in too late, but this time I was able to come in at the last minute. No one else from my department was at this meeting (and I only found out later that two other people from my university were coming), so the mixer was a great chance to meet other students and I quickly ran into two other people who were also the only ones from their institutions and we chatted about our work. Then we got invited to go with other students to see bars and restaurants nearby, and I kept in touch with a lot of those people through the week.
  • Go to sessions beyond your own symposium. MRS is interdisciplinary, so it's worth it to see what other people are doing in the broad materials community that it gathers. Get inspired about potential applications of your own materials, or just broaden your knowledge. I spent a lot of time at the AI symposium because it was a new field I didn't know much about. This is also made easier if you do the first tip, because you can check out talks other MRS students are presenting or they recommend seeing. 
  • Check out the exhibitors, even if you're not looking for new supplies Nearly all the exhibitors are not expecting students to buy anything, so don't worry about that. But they'll gladly talk to you about your products and answer your questions, so maybe you can learn more about how to solve experimental problems you might be having or just ask more questions about supplies and get faster feedback than email. At this meeting, I talked to a company that makes instruments to characterize particles. I mentioned we had an older version of the one they were displaying, and they asked how our lab's instrument was doing. When I said I didn't use it much yet and mentioned that I was going to need to train myself because no one currently in the lab has used it before, they offered to send me tutorial materials. Also, MRS has booths talking about other activities the society does so it's cool to learn what else you can support. 
  • Bring some business cards! They're a great way to share contact info with other students, professors, and exhibitors. If you're really looking for a job, bring your resume, but business cards are more convenient to just share contact info. Some schools may provide cards for their students, but you can also find good ones for a cheap price online now. You'll probably end up with more than you need, but you can give them out at other events from then on.
  • Don't be afraid to talk to more senior researchers. If there's someone you really want to talk to after a session, go for it. People are generally enthusiastic about sharing their work and enjoy getting to talk more if you have questions. At worst, you might only get a short answer to a question, but you might also get to have a good conversation and connections for your work. 

Interdisciplinary topics MRS

During this MRS spring 2018, MRS gave me the opportunity not only to attend the topic of my interest like perovskite solar cells, I also tried this year to open my mind and attend some other talks outside my "comfort zone".  

For that reason I attended the session of energy like EP04: Advanced Materials for Carbon Capture and Other Important Gas Separations (EP04.01 and EP04.02); it went well; the titles of these talks were: novel devices for the morning session and transistors reliability for the afternoon session. After that I moved on Wednesday into topics related with my material (perovskite) but now for tandem solar applications, and I attended the EN08.06: Tandem Solar Cell Integration; it went really well, due to I obtained more knowledge about it. One talk that caught more my attention was the EN08.06.04: A third option for integrating hybrid tandem solar cells-Three terminal devices, given by Emily Warren from the NREL, Golden Colorado, United States. I never had the opportunity to read about tandem solar cells with 3 contacts, so I learned a lot in here; she  mainly discuss the design and operating principles of three-terminal (3T) tandem cells fabricated by combining a III-V (GaInP or GaAs) top-cell with a 3T Si bottom cell. Also she showed some simulations done to prove that this 3 terminal will provide an efficient mechanism to capture the solar spectrum without the need to current match sub-cells (as in monolithic 2-terminal tandem) or fabricate complicated metal grids/interconnects between cells (as in 4T stacked tandem). Very interesting! 

Then I had a great opportunity given by Jiajia Lin, I could not miss it. She invited me to her talk SM05.01.04 : In Vitro Degradation and Characterization of Hydroxyapatite Coated Magnesium for Implant Application from the University of California, Riverside, Riverside, California, United States. She showed the degradation property of Hydroxyapatite (HA), which I learned it was a naturally occurring calcium-containing mineral that is enriched with magnesium, carbonate acid, phosphate, and other trace elements and it was coated Mg prepared by IonTiteTM, and it was tested in in revised simulated body fluid (rSBF) for six weeks. And with the studies she presented they found out that the HA coated Mg substrates are promising materials as bioresorabable implants for orthopedic and craniofacial applications, and confirmed the optimal IonTiteTM process conditions that could produce HA coatings on Mg with superior degradation performance. Then I also learned that bioresorbable implants are being widely used for fracture fixation in orthopaedic surgery and the market is expanding rapidly worldwide. I hope I can see Jiajia's work in the market pretty soon. 

I still have a great experience going on in my mind, why on my mind?  Well, due to now I want to know more about other materials too and probably move my research to other applications as well. I hope you had that feeling too, and you found the MRS very productive for your research and your future work. 

Thank you MRS 2018 and the speakers mentioned! 


-Araceli H.G-

Instituto de Energías Renovables, UNAM-Temixco, Morelos, Mexico. 


Symposium X - David J. Mooney introduced fascinating founding in biomaterials

David J. Mooney,  a Professor of Bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as well as a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, was invited as an honored speaker in the MRS Symposium X meeting. Mooney is a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine. The Mooney lab focuses on designing biomaterials that affect specific cells functions and making therapies more effective and practical through study of the mechanism of the chemical and mechanical signal that were sensed by cells. His research now focuses on therapeutic angiogenesis, regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues and cancer therapies. In the meeting, he introduced the influence of stress relaxation of hydrogel on cells and demonstrated that faster relaxation of gels promote cell spreading and enhance osteogenesis and new bone formation. Moreover, he put forward that ferrogel with magnetic stimulation can promote new tissue regeneration because active mechanical stimulation share a similar mechanism.


Exhibit, last hours!


As you might know today is the last day for the exhibit. At the exhibit you will find really great things to learn and have fun, why not?

Well, during my break I just went quickly to check and I brought you the things you can do and find there! Well, the first thing I did, I went quickly to see the new winners of the poster presentation of today, as well you will find all the previous winners from Tuesday and Wednesday in a separate area; look up for them, if you missed them. 

 Another great activity was the SouthWestSelfies, I had a brief talk with the owner, and she explained she wanted to bring marketing, fun and social media in just one activity. What does that mean? Well, first of all, you need to stay in a line to be able to get a picture with really cool stuff (that's for fun), at the same time you will be sharing this picture with a message (marketing) on it on your social media you can call it, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Just simple as that! If you want to have more information here is the information of the booth SouthWest Selfies  , give them a like on Facebook (SouthWest Selfies).

Another great thing you will find for the improvement of your research is the area of the exhibition. Go to your app MRS Spring2018>Exhibitors and you will find a list of all of them; be sure to stop by, they have really important information to give! 

And finally but not less important come and check the poster presentations at 5 pm! 



Everything is Bigger in Arizona—Not Texas 

Whoever coined the phrase "Everything's bigger in Texas" must have never visited Arizona. I arrived at such a conclusion this morning in the Phoenix Convention Center's lobby when the largest bee I'd ever seen chased me away from my laptop. 

"What is that?" I cried as I did a frantic, crippled chicken dance in front of the Starbucks. My erratic gesticulations earned a few strange looks, but other than that, people remained composed—and seated. 

Now that I think about it, it probably did look like I was have a "reaction" to an illicit substance.

Suddenly, a concerned employee approached me with a confused expression obviously attributed to what she thought was the worst John Travolta Saturday Night Fever impersonation she'd ever seen in her life.  

"Are you okay?" she asked. 

By this point, I had lost the ability to speak and could only point in the direction of the offending creature as I ran around the lobby. Sadly, my dancing was so bad that it took the poor woman a few minutes to realize I was actually pointing at something instead of shaking my groove thang.  That said, I must say I gave a convincing performance of dropping it like it was hot. 

"It's a bee," an amused onlooker standing in the coffee line casually replied. 

"Then it must be full of steroids and taking growth hormones!" I managed to exclaim. My reply earned a few casual chuckles, but still no one came to my rescue. My only solution became clear: I had to fend for myself—whatever that meant.  

Despite the urgency of the situation, the event took me back to when I lived in Tucson and found a gargantuan scorpion perched on my bath towel after returning home from a trip. And as you may have guessed, that scorpion was much larger than any scorpion I'd seen in Texas, too. Fast forward nine years later, the Grand Canyon State has maintained its lead in providing a habitat for humongous creatures: Arizona's score: 2. Texas': 0. 

Luckily, the bee suddenly lost interest in my awkward dancing episode—much to my advantage. It flew across the balcony, allowing me to regain my composure and resume my work.  

Later, a security guard approached me about the ferocious flying arthropod. Apparently, the lady who'd approached me earlier had sought him for help. Unfortunately, I was so consumed by the fight for my life that I didn't even realize she'd left.  

While the security guard's valiant search for the fugitive produced no results, he assured me he would escort the bee to the door in the event it returned for an encore attack.  

Right now, the bee's whereabouts remain unknown; but given his astronomical size, I can assure you he is extremely easy to identify—and that you won't find him in the Lone Star State.


MRS Award - Symposium X Presentation


Cahill1ESSeveral MRS awards, Innovation in Materials Characterization, Mid-career Researcher, MRS Impact, Outstanding Young investigator, MRS Postdoctoral, Graduate student Gold and Silver and the Arthur Nowick Graduate Student Award were awarded on Wednesday (April 4th). David G.Cahill was awarded the Innovation in Materials Characterization and gave a talk in the symposium. Dr. David G. Cahill is the Willett Professor and Department Head of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests mainly lie in thermal management, which is a critical issue in a wide variety of applications of thin films materials from state-of-the-art microprocessors to turbine engines. His group has recently developed new and powerful methods of characterizing nanoscale thermal transport using ultrafast laser metrology of precisely controlled thin film multilayers and suspensions of metallic nanoparticles. He and his works have received many noticeable recognitions and awards, including Yeram S. Touloukian Award, Fellow of the Materials Research Society, Fellow of the American Physical Society etc.

Symposium Assistants (SAs) on 2018 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit

Changlu Xu, Dongwei Sun, Yaqiong Li, all serving as Symposium Assistants (SAs) for the 2018 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit, have been busy these days around the conference venue assisting other participants. They are responsible for delivering essential meeting materials to the technical session rooms, monitoring audio-visual equipment and room lighting, tracking  and recording attendance and performing other tasks requested by the session chairs. Being a first-time attendee, Changlu (left one in the photo) expressed his excitement about performing the role of SA. “This is my first year of Ph.D. in the States. I feel so lucky that I can come here talking with different people from both academia and industry about new ideas. Also, assisting them makes me feel very engaged in the Society, better persisting my commitment to the community of material science”, he smiled while saying this.


Dr. John A. Rogers was invited to give a talk!


Rogers_john2Dr. John A. Rogers introduced his lab's amazing work: the flexible electronic neural mapping  technique to treat brain disorders. This larger scale electronic neural mapping biosensor is hundred nanometer thickness, has more than 1000 channels and can last more than 1 year stable operation! The semiconducting material he used is single crystalline Si, and SiO2 was grown on the top surface of it. The SiO2 layer contains no pinholes and has a very low dissolution rate at physiological temperature (7 years for dissolving), which solves the issues of conventional neural mapping devices that degrade in a few hours. Dr. John A. Rogers is one of my favorite professors. His primary research area resides in understanding and exploiting interesting characteristics of "soft" materials, such as polymers, liquid crystals, and biological tissues as well as hybrid combinations of them with unusual classes of micro/nanomaterials, in the form of ribbons, wires, membranes, tubes or related. He is mainly known for the contributions in the fields of soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics, nanotechnology, and flexible electronics. He is a recipient of many recognitions and awards, including an Eringen Medal (2014), a MacArthur Fellow and a Lemelson-MIT Prize. Recently he helped form a team to develop wearable sensors to speed up the recovery of stroke patients. These sensors can send information to doctors continuously and therefore allow therapists to more closely monitor the effectiveness of their treatments. By doing so, Dr. John A. Rogers expects them to facilitate faster recovery and bodily functional reconstruction for stroke patients. "And you can embed all sorts of advanced sensor functionality, microprocessor computing capability, power supplies and WiFi into this very unusual platform, and that is the uniqueness of what we do," he said, looking up brightly the future of this new technology.

MRS Publications Reception

On Tuesday night after the poster session, there was a reception celebrating MRS publications. A piece of good news I really enjoyed hearing as someone interested in science policy was the newest MRS journal, MRS Energy and Sustainability, was added to Scopus' index, making it more easily searched. MRS Energy and Sustainability not only focuses on materials with energy and sustainability applications, but also policy, economic, and social factors. 

I also got to meet two of the other bloggers: Araceli and Jiajia. Araceli studies solar cells and is now an MRS blogging veteran, because she did it last year too! Jiajia studies surface finishing for metallic medical implants and is another new blogger. Being social media savvy, we each took a selfie of us meeting. You'll have to ask Araceli and Jiajia for their versions of this photo!


If I Were a Fashion Designer...

From the moment the first model strutted her stuff down the catwalk in the Phoenix Convention Center's Exhibit Hall, it was clear that today's fashion show had spawned a shift in the energy of the conference. That vibe felt like a fresh flavor one might not expect at a science convention. In fact, the fashion show very well may be the only programming in this conference that actually illustrates the conversion of art and science, the technical with the creative, the analytical with the esoteric, the black with the white.  

The imaginative fashions ranged from elegant, floor-sweeping evening gowns made of intricately designed textiles to futuristic, 3-dimensional outfits semi-reminiscent of The Jetsons space cartoon. Designers teased the audience not only with their one-of-a-kind creations but with their exploration of color that commanded every hue of the rainbow's color palette.  

In addition to the materials science interplay, several of the outfits paid homage to sustainability. For example, one model proudly paraded before the crowd in a "bubble" dress made from recycled plastics.  

Seeing fashion created in such a resourceful way made me contemplate what materials I might repurpose to design my own futuristic garb—had I the talent. 

Would I craft an eye-catching handbag from a flat tire and accent it with a shoulder strap derived from a shorted out extension cord? Or weave a fibrous belt from rattlesnake skin sheddings, stained a bright, translucent red from beet juice? Perhaps I could harvest thorns from a cactus that bit the dust to create a decorative hair comb to accessorize an everyday look? And not to worry, my dear Phoenicians: I know better than to disturb your beautiful Saguaro cacti (Trust me: I love them just as much as you do!). 

Clearly, I am drawing inspiration from my current surroundings. 

And while I'd like to believe I have a creative mind as a writer, the degree of forward-thinking these talented fashion designers illustrated through their work today was definitely awe-inspiring, to say the least.  

My initial futuristic thoughts may seem somewhat outlandish on paper, but whether I try my hand at designing clothes or continue nourishing my creative spirit through writing, this show has inspired me to explore the inconceivable—just because I can.