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November 2007

April 2007

Wrap up

Well, the MRS Spring 2007 conference is over. Thanks to everyone for making it such a great experience....The authors of the many wonderful talks I saw, the session chairs for making things run so smoothly, the MRS staff and of course the conference organizers. See you in Boston (hopefully)!

Random Run-ins

Sometimes the random run-ins at MRS lead to impromptu conversations and beyond. Apparently it's not always that you need to be introduced or know someone in common. Just this morning, I was trying to help a man to get his internet to work, which led to an inquiry to where he was from, and onto a long conversation on how in fact our research overlapped quite remarkably. Turns out he is part of the small synchrotron community, and, more surprising still, the magnetic thin film synchrotron community. Small small world! It's impromptu interactions just like these that make conferences so great, especially for grad students. We finally get to get out from our academic campuses and meet and mingle with others in our field from across the world.

The wonder material

Last STO post, I promise. The debate continues in the Oxide Interfaces session over all of the fascinating properties of Strontium Titanate with Gerhard Meijer's RRAM talk. First this material was supposed to be a gate dielectric but turned out to be conductive due to oxygen vacancies, then a ferroelectric under strain. It has a remarkably high thermopower, is superconducting at low T, may be ferromagnetic when doped, creates conducting interfaces with other oxides, emits blue light, and now may be a good resistance-switching material. Oh yeah, and apparently it is also used as fake diamond and can be grown with an ultra high degree of crystal quality (thus its use as the staple of thin-film oxide substrates). Why don't we just make every functional material from some doped form of STO? Or just everything, period?

Research Idea Recharging

So, at the beginning of the week, I mentioned that one of the reasons why conferences are such great opportunities and experiences for graduate students is that it inspires new research ideas. Aside from seeing all the new presentations with new results and ideas, getting feedback from one's own presentation is extremely rewarding. After I presented yesterday afternoon, I had lots of insightful questions asked. Luckily, I was able to field the majority of them, but it's a great experience for getting new ideas of how one can further prove one's hypothesis, as well as what referees and reviewers may bring up when reviewing a submitted paper on the work. Add to the fact, that the room is filled with big heavyweights in the field asking you questions, you know that these are the prime people you want "pre-reviewing" your work. All in all, I believe this kind of experience is pivotal to the maturation of both a graduate student and their work.

Talks online

So one day the future will be here and you'll be able to view all the talks you saw in person online after the fact, even years after the conference. A prototype of the future is already here: in several of the sessions, such pictured experts are carefully recording the audio of the talks and synchronizing them to the presenters' slides before uploading them to the web.

High sensitivity to oxygen vacancies?

So, after literally *days* of talk after talk hitting home the importance of oxygen vacancies in the Functional Oxide Interfaces symposium, this afternoon Nigel Browning tempted everyone by showcasing the advanced functionalities of his various STEMs. Specifically, he noted that they can be extremely sensitive to oxygen vacancies with these advanced machines, and that he has a STEM that is equipped with atmospheric control for possible oxygen dependent studies under high resolution and time dependence. Only time will tell if these advanced techniques can help shed light on these extremely interesting functional interfaces!

Carbon nanotubes...

...are really small.
Here's me trying to emphasize that. These carbon nanotubes were built at the Exploratorium last summer with the help of the staff, the public, and the volunteers including yours truly. We explained that each plastic ball was a carbon atom and arranged them in the hexagonal pattern on 2D sheets, and then rolled them up into 3D nanotubes.


The Electric Car

Finally got to ride in the electric car yesterday (last riders of the day). It was pretty darn cool. We crammed four people in and rode around and around the little open area. As expected, that little thing has a great turning radius, and runs almost completely silent. No load roar as the ignition is turned. It was pretty interesting that you shifted by pressing the "reverse" and "forward" buttons, and there was an interesting lever you have to pull below your seat to connect and disconnect the battery when you do and don't want to be using it. Be forewarned if you're in the market for buying that they don't recommend freeway driving. All in all, it was a fun ride, and could make a great way of getting to the grocery store and back to carry all those heavy groceries. :)

Hangover Thursdays?

Things are considerably slower this morning, the registration line has dwindled to nothingness and there are quite a bit fewer people pouring onto the escalators. Most of the meaty sessions were Tuesday and Wednesday, but don't discount the last two days, especially fellow blogger Brit's talk later. Wednesday night is also the big party night for materials scientists(?)... I'm sure everyone will have stumbled in by lunchtime. Those of us sitting in L (oxide interfaces) yesterday learned the purpose of happy hour: witnessing such discourse/controversy is truly both what makes a conference like this great and pushes the frontiers of physics, but nobody said it was easy! Coffee and aspirin helps, back to work.