Previous month:
December 2013
Next month:
November 2014

April 2014

Are you graduating???

Are you graduating anytime soon? looking for a job?

Then don't forget to stop by the career section in Moscone. The career section is fully packed with a wide variety of positions fitting for academia as well as th industry. It also has booths set-up for industry such as Applied Materials, Goodyear tyres and etc, and academia such as Singapore university and King abdullah university are keenly interested to recruit recent-grads and postdocs.

Per my conversation with the reps at Goodyear booth, they are avidly in search for postdocs with expertise in polymers and composite materials. While, the applied materials is on hunt for software engineer, electrical engineer, process engineer and application engineer. Wanna test your luck? then stop by their booths and talk to them for insight details.

Who says science can't be funny?

Word on the street is that Dr. Gordon Wallace is a very funny and entertaining speaker. I decided to see for myself. Turns out the rumor is true, as I found myself chuckling more during his 30 min talk than while watching an episode of the Big Bang Theory! Well that might be an exaggeration but it was certainly a close competition between the two.
Dr. Wallace's area of research is not my expertise so I was a little worried that I would not understand the gist of the talk. Fortunately for me, his excellent presentation skills allowed anyone to be engaged about the topic and therefore understand his research.
He started by pretending he would give a talk from another computer sitting on the table next to his, a joke that was very well delivered and timed. My favorite though was when someone in the audience's phone rang dying his talk. He immediately checked his pockets pretending it was his and saying that his mother must be calling. The audience laughed as his admittedly silly joke but at least he knew they were awake.
So why am I writing about this talk without mentioning the science at all? After leaving Dr. Wallace's presentation, I started thinking about the benefits of incorporating humor and personality Ito technical talks. I think there is a balance of funny and serious that make for the best presentations. You don't want it to be stand up comedy but you don't want to put your audience to sleep either. Finding happy medium where people are engaged as you are excited about your research yields the best results in y opinion. After all you want people to go home and read your papers!

Happy sciencing!

Progress Towards Retinal Prostheses

Yesterday I was able to see the talks of three researchers who are working to restore sight to the blind. Below is the graphic that all 3 researchers used to illustrate the location and spatial arrangement of the retina (I think the final speaker made a joke of this!)




James Weiland from Stanford spoke about the materials challenges of improving currently existing retinal implants. He identified 3 challenges: Hermetic packaging of multielectrode arrays, smaller electrodes, and wider field of view. He seems poised to solve these challenges, based on the wonderful results he showed.

Next, I was introduced to a different method for retinal stimulation: photoactive polymer films. Vini Gautam spoke about her innovative work, which proved that action potentials can be generated by the photocurrent generated by a material functioning as a polymer solar cell. She has also demonstrated long-term biocompatibility of these materials. And Guglielmo Lanzani presented his work on proving that such materials may even be able to restore color vison! His device is already being tested in rats. 

Thanks to all for beginning to bridge the gap between electronics and biological sciences to find treatments for the blind.



Poster Sessions

The poster sessions are one of my favorite parts of MRS. They highlight the interdeciplinary nature of the MRS. We are able to exchange tips and protocols and visit posters that are in technical sessions pretty far from our main field of research. The final poster session is to be held in the Mariott Marquis from 8-11 PM. Please Join!

Ice Cream Break: A Networking Hub

Are you tired? Are you bored with coffee?

Wanna chill out with some ice cream? Then come on over to the Moscone exhibit center.

I see and talking to various people about the Ice Cream break. These ice cream junctions are acting as hubs of networking and attracting peope of all genre and all professions. After a day-long talks, and attending seminars most of them are chilling and trying to relax with some icy and creamy bites. While most of them wonder what magic can it do, but it is calling up for some productive and collaborative research efforts with strong conversations between students, presenters, exhibitors, and researchers.

Photo (11)

Kudos!! for these simple great ideas that stitches great minds with great discussions 


Nurturing Future Material Scientists

Students stand as a crux for this great event and MRS makes efforts to recognize and encourage their activities in spreading the word of MRS and its initiatives.  With over 80 student chapters and counting stationed in USA and globally, it is firm and growing every year. The Student chapter coordinator Ms. Lorri Smiley says student chapters are a vital part of the Materials Research Society, providing discussion between students and faculty and promoting student interest in materials science. My experiences with the chapter luncheon have always been exciting and resourceful. It gives an insight view of what exactly MRS stands for and its message to future material scientists. It stands as an avenue for students to network, know about their peers, and promote materials education among the young and future professionals.


Every year, representatives of these chapters are encouraged to attend the chapter luncheon, which apparently enhances chapter activities, promotion, and recruitment procedures. Today’s chapter luncheon is as exciting as its previous events. Recently, they inititated “Design a Shirt to Promote Your MRS University Chapter and/or Materials Science”, where students get a chance to show off their Chapter’s creative talents! And award the most unique and creative!


Finally the first prize of $100 was awarded to Drexel University and the second received by Columbia University.

Stability of liquid-nanostructure interfaces

In the talks of Michael Rubinstein and Joanna Aizenberg, the theme was the liqud-nanostructure interface. One great example is the Respiratory Epithelium, the subject of. Dr. Rubinstein's study (Wikimedia Commons): Respiratory epithelium

Cilia on top of the respiratory epithelial cells are both surrounded by, and topped by, a mucous layer. Dr. Rubinstein's work has elucidated how the properties of this mucous layer turn out to be very important to the cilial ability to sweep away particulates that are inhaled. In healthy lungs, the cilia are free to "beat" in a mesh of mucose that is more dense closer to the epithelial cell layer. This dense mesh prevents small particles from penetrating to the cells. In lung diseases, however, the upper layers of mucous become too dense, resulting in an increased osmotic pressure and subsequent collapse of the cilia. They may cease to beat and the mucous may even become adhered to the epilthelial cells, significantly reducing lung function. In the future Dr. Rubenstein will focus on determining the molecular forces that allow the mucosal film to interact both with the cilia and  with the cell layer. This could help him develop anti adhesion agents that could clear problematic mucosal film adhesions to improve lung function for patients of chronic bronchitis or COPD.

Because of thse cilial membrane's beatufiul properties to keep surfaces clean, Dr. Aizenberg has mimicked this functionality. Just as Dr. Rubenstein hinted, there are key parameters which must be satisfied for the films to remain stable, and through careful application of basic physical reasoning, Dr. Aizenberg has identified them and satisfied them. Namely, she determined that by carefully tuning the surface energy of the nanostructures and the lubricating liquid, she can create a stable lubricating film atop a nanostructured surface, producing what she calls a SLIPS film. This surface has many of the characteristics that our Respiratory Epithelium has, including a self-healing capability, an amazing self-cleaning ability, and an ability to repel droplets of a variety of chemical compositions. 

Seeing these two talks in a row showed us how much can be gained from meetings like MRS where we are able to learn from great scientists in our field. Its so interesting how these two talks addressed similar issues but from different perspectives. 

MRS Day 3: Exciting STEM work by female researchers!

This morning I was fortunate enough to attend the Women in MSE Breakfast, with a talk presented by Dr. Kathleen Buse. She spoke about how women can flourish in the STEM fields and it turns out there are a lot of things you can do to ensure your success. In fact, simply believing in your own success and the importance of your work makes you more likely to succeed.

I also saw Dr. Mariyln Minus speak about her work in utilizing nanocarbons (read: nanotubes) to impart order to collagen fibrils. Though she had previously worked mostly in the field of ballistics (!), she has translated this work to make stronger collagen fibrils that more closely resemble native collagen fibers to form suitable scaffolds for cell studies. 

Girl-Power Collagen Light Sabre!



( Composite image above from Wikimedia commons image of a collagen fiber and an image copywrited by Lucasfilm/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar, and modified in accordance with copyright policy. )

Organic and Flexible Energy

In today’s modern world, energy claims itself to be an undying asset of every nation. Fossil fuels like crude oil, coal, and natural gas have been used since time immemorial to generate various forms of energy including electricity. With growing fears of conventional fuels becoming extinct with time, all communities around the globe are working to discover alternatives for the conventional fuels that also promise the best ecosystem for future generations. Thus, the research for better energy harvesting and storage devices is at its apex

Photovoltaic (PV) technology has seen an unprecedented growth in recent years. The most commonly used PV materials are monocrystaline and polycrystalline silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide. Currently, these solar cells have the capability of reaching efficiency up to 45% (NREL Cell Efficiencies, 2012). However, as they are expensive to mass-produce and require energy for manufacturing, the demand for flexible, cheaper, mass-producible, and lightweight solar cells is high in the scientific community. Augmenting this demand, the conferring of Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the year 2000 to Dr. Alan Heeger in recognition of his work on conducting polymers has decisively paved a new era for organic electronics, organic photovoltaics (OPV), and organic/flexible displays (Shirakawa, Louis, MacDiarmid, Chiang, & Heeger, 1977).


An Organic Solar Cell (OSC) or plastic solar cell is an evolving multidisciplinary area of research that involves theoretical, experimental, and design challenges dealing with carbon based materials and other organic compounds. It is a brand of polymer solar cell which incorporates conductive organic polymer for light absorption, exciton dissociation, and charge transport to generate electricity (Mayer, Scully, Hardin, Rowell, & Mcgehee, 2007). It is different from the conventional silicon and other inorganic material based cells as they are cheaper (Kalowekamo & Baker, 2009) and can also be fabricated via low cost solution processing techniques like spin coating, brush painting, and spray coating. These solution-processing techniques fetch desired thicknesses of a few hundred nanometers and sober efficiencies of 4-5%. The wide multi-polymer layered architectures of organic solar cells help execute the process of photon trapping, the generation of electrons and holes, and the transport of charges to the respective cathodes and anodes. Recently, both Mitsubishi Electronics and the University of California Los Angeles have claimed the highest efficiency of 10% for organic solar cells (Kobayashi, 2011; Yang, 2012). The first organic solar cell was invented by C. W. Tang in the mid-1980s with 1% efficiency and was based on a two-layered donor and acceptor materials (Tang, 1986). The two different organic materials sandwiched between the two electrodes work as a photovoltaic device. Since it speaks loud about flexible energy, need for 4 MRS symposia (A,B,C,D) is well justified.

Women persisting in STEM professions

This morning, bright and early, women and a few men attended a very delicious breakfast held by the women in science and engineering subcommittee. The event occurs every year for those people who want to talk about the gender differences the STEM fields.
This year, the breakfast featured Kathleen Buse, the faculty director of the leadership lab for women in STEM at Case Western University. Dr. Buse gave an excellent presentation on why some women persist in their science and engineering fields and how we can increase the number that do. She presented many statistics and data sets representing the percentage of women in jobs, some which astounded the audience.
These days it is important to think about these things as a woman in science who will be faced with many of the same challenges. One point she made was that girls in middle school subconsciously decide to pursue science or not. It is up to us older women in science to inspire these girls to do so and to feel confident in their abilities at a young age.

Something to think about.

Happy sciencing!

Women persisting in STEM professions