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March 2008

Till next season...

Just a quick goodbye post. Thanks to all the organizers of MRS -- I can't even imagine what goes into coordinating such a huge conference. Thanks to all the speakers, session chairs, and everyone for making MRS such a great time. See you in Boston (hopefully) or else SF next year.

Wired magazine visits MRS

Nano11I'm impressed to see that the MRS meeting merited a visit from Wired magazine.  They posted a series of pictures from the vendor exhibits, showcasing some the cool tools on display last week.  Some of the comments left by readers are in poor taste so I won't link to it directly, but go and track it down on the web if you are interested.  They give it their usual, overly enthusiastic gloss, but I can't deny being tickled by the attention paid to material science. 

Stepping outside your comfort zone

So one of the last talks I attended today was and invited talk on biomaterials research and using biomimetics to make advances in biological applications. In particular it focused on using the body's own tissue regeneration processes to aid in solving medical problems. In particular it focused on the problems involved in bone grafting surgeries and focused on the development of a novel biomimetic way of creating bone structures that have complex heirarchichal structures matching that of our real bone tissue. It was really interesting and thought provoking. It was also a far step away from the research I am use to seeing and hearing talks on (namely inorganic materials research and specifically those relating to oxides and electromagnetic properties of materials). But despite my complete lack of knowledge in this area I was able to keep up. And whats more I think I could really take from the talk. Some of the common components of materials science were evident. Strength as related to structure and novel growth techniques, and even corrosion cosiderations, all played a role in the work. I like the idea of being able to find these common tie-ins. And though it would be a lot of work, I like the idea that maybe some of the common things I am learning could one day be applied to a field that is often considered completely different from my own. I guess my point is that its nice to step outside your comfort zone to see how well you can relate to work different from your area of expertise.

Places to Check Out in SF

So, since some of you may be staying the weekend here in San Francisco, I thought I'd compile a short overview of some the highlights of SF. One of the great things about SF--as all great large cities--is that there is a plethora of unique and distinct neighborhoods that one can visit, each with their own identity and vibe. I highlight some of my favorite below.

- The Mission - very close to my heart with its vibrant hispanic community. If you go, you're likely to hear Spanish being spoken left and right, as well as see it on billboards, etc. There are great margaritas, burritos, and some really great parks (i.e. Mission Dolores Park) to lounge around and enjoy a beautiful sunny day (The Mission is consistently the sunniest part of the city.) If you're looking for some great restaurants and some good night life, this is also a great place (from 16th and Valencia all the way down to 24th.) Another great thing is it's accessible by BART.
- The Haight (i.e. Haight and Ashbury) - This is also a great place for night life and good eats. It is known to outsiders as the hippie part of the city. There's a great belgian beer bar, Toranado, and its super close to Golden Gate Park (SF's "Central Park", if you will), which is great for a stroll.
- North Beach - the Italian part of the city with lots of great Italian restaurants, and again another good area for bars, albeit a bit more expensive and swanky.
- The Castro - another SF legend, being the gay mecca of the US. You'll see rainbow flags flying everywhere. But beyond it's gay notoriety, it's also a great place for yet more good restaurants and bars--just be aware of what kind of bar you're heading into, so you don't have any surprises. :)

All in all, SF is an amazing city, and having Spring MRS here every year is a great idea! I hope you enjoy it!

Science vs. Engineering, what it means to be MSE

So I just now attended and interesting invited talk that probed some questions about the amazingly smooth si-SiOx interface. And it actually resonated with a conversation I had with one F.Wong, one of my colleagues. We were discussing the relative merits of engineering vs. science. He was argueing that engineers aren't given enough credit for taking existing phenomena that appear in science and optimizing them for actual technical use. I was argueing the other side saying they have to go hand in hand, and one cannot be had without the other.  know he gets extremely excited about understanding the science behind things, but lately has been trying to get more involved in the engineering aspect of things and wants to do more device related research, so I beleive he was merely playing devil's advocate. But it is an interesting thing to think about. While understanding the science provides new directions for engineers to often take advantage of. It is occasionally things like the Si-SiOx questions that were really given to scientists by the work of many wise engineers. The talk focused on understanding the nature of the amazingly abrupt interface between crystalline Si and SiO2. And while we are still trying to understand it, this hasn't stopped us from using this amazing phenomena in todays technology at all. I think I really like being a material researcher because it opens up the avenues to being both a scientist and an engineer!

Free lunch

Lunch_1_3 Yesterday I enjoyed a free lunch in the vendor exhibit hall.  It wasn't bad, either, with fresh fruit and foccacia bread sandwiches.  It makes me wonder where the registration dollars go for meetings like APS, at which free coffee and lunch are conspicuously absent.  Perhaps the best part of the lunch was seeing distinguished scientists and professors sitting on the floor of the poster area to eat.

FeRAM: Past and Future

This afternoon was the best yet for me in terms of stimulating oxide-relate talks.
Right after lunch, Carlos A. Paz de Araujo from his company Symetrix gave a very interesting overview of the FeRAM field. As someone who focuses mainly on magnetic oxides and MRAM (Magnetic Random Access Memory) applications, it was very helpful for me to see a comprehensive overview of the FeRAM (FerroelectricRAM) history and future directions. One of the highlights for me was an overview of many of the versatile applications of FeRAM that are in use today that I had never realized. He talked of their use in cell phones, plasma TVs, cars, and printers. He even said that it is in use on every single Smart card that is in use in Japan today, and, as China will be introducing it into their huge population shortly, that the market is ripe for growth. (So, investing in FeRAM may be where it's at...) Although it was a very different talk than what one usually sees here, I was quite impressed and thankful that I had caught it. It'd be interesting if there were a few more talks like this sprinkled throughout the symposiums.


I figured I should post a requisite blog about how I felt after presenting for the first time. And I think its a lot of intimidation, but when its done, Its kind of fun. Its fun to drum up excitement about your work, and getting questions at the end is also actually more rewarding than not (provided they aren't pointed unanswerable ones that are antagonistic in nature).

Img_2397_2 As for my talk, personally I was still shaking from the adrenaline of it. I get nervous easily so I tended to start talking incredibly fast towards the end of my talk. And because of this I am not sure how well my gushing translated into the ideas, but I hope at least my slide presentation spoke for itself, and the listeners got something out of it!  Well anyway, I hope to be more comfortable about it at my next conference.

My last post

Ok - so this is definitely my last post. In summary, I am really excited at the amount of things I've learned during this conference. A big benefit of attending conferences like MRS is that it gives attendees the opportunity to learn about a broad range of topics related to materials science. While I am a magnetics person, I attended talks related to energy, phase change materials, and organic devices. At the moment, energy-related issues are smoking hot. Prior to this conference I couldn't really discuss energy issues coherently. However, after the energy forum on Monday I was inspired. My fiancee grew up on a corn and soy bean farm in central Illinois, so I came home Monday night and discussed all the things I learned during Chris Sommerville's talk. Perennial grasses, yes, it is definitely a subject the farmers are aware of there and are waiting to hear more about.

Phase change materials - there's a group in my department looking at phase change materials. I heard of phase change materials a few years ago while working on my thesis at IBM. The concept was cool, but I didn't know a much about it. However, this afternoon's phase change session really shed some light on the issue. Chalcogenides, Ge, Sb,  Te, In. Interesting materials, good stuff.

As a second year, I've gotten over the initial intimidation of graduate school. Tuesday night's poster session was espcially memorable for me as I was able to discuss my material, CuCr2O4, with others. And I was also able to discuss another phase of my material with a colleague looking at transparent semiconductors. They are baby steps, but with each step, I belive people build confidence and grow in their careers. Also, by attending sessions not directly related to one's research, I think we become wiser and can make big picture connections fueling the potential for greater innovation. Anyway, thanks for a wonderful conference people. I look forward to seeing you next year.




There isn't much among the vendor exhibits to interest a theorist, but I did pay a visit to the CrysalMaker booth this morning.  CrystalMaker is  a software package for building, viewing and analyzing crystal structures and molecules.  It is the only one I know of which was originally built for the Mac and I use it quite heavily.  The new version, 8.0, is designed to integrate with the Leopard OS and integrates beautifully with the Finder, providing thumbnails for preview and spotlight-searchable crystallographic information.  It looks like movie-building will be much easier with this release and there are nice features to facilitate working with multiple files.  I especially like the feature that lets you apply a set of model options to a group of images, so you can instantly get all your structures oriented and represented in the same way ready for comparison instead of tediously doing them one by one.

They also have a program for simulated xray diffraction and it looks like they might try and integrate it with CrystalMaker so that you can see the diffraction pattern of you crystal as you move it around and modify it.  It isn't a feature I need, per se, but it would be a great tool when learning about diffraction.  If you have spare time I recommend stopping by the stall to get a hands-on tour of the software.