Dalian Workshop Spurs New Materials Science Collaborations Print E-mail
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Prof. Simon Phillpot of the University of Florida gives a graduate student some feedback on her project at the IMI-SEE workshop at Dalian University of Technology in China.

A workshop at the Dalian Institute of Technology in China in 2011 not only provided the seeds to new collaborations between U.S. and Chinese researchers, but pushed forward the advancement of materials science while inspiring young researchers.

Organized by the institute and the International Materials Institute on Solar Energy and Environment (IMI-SEE), the event brought together 22 participants and an extra 50 or more people who sat in on the lectures Sept. 27-29, 2011, in the Liaoning province of China. Veteran and junior scientists of varying disciplines collaborated on ideas and potential projects.

“The Dalian workshop was very eye-opening for many of the participants,” IMI-SEE Director R.P.H. Chang said. “In particular we have learned that it is one of the leading science and technology universities in China, and it has materials science and engineering professors who actually design and construct their own research equipment with their students. In addition, they have leading experts in materials theory.”

Chang added that the collaborative discussions of projects were very beneficial and fruitful and, as a result, dialogues are continuing in the topical areas of the workshop.

Jackelyn Martinez, a graduate student at the University of Florida, especially enjoyed the experience of working with researchers from other fields.

“Sometimes in research I feel that we can be too close to a problem that we get stuck,” she said. “Seeing the way different disciplines look at the same problem helped me to remember to take steps back in my own research and remember that there are always different ways to solve a problem.”

Solving problems through such collaborations is precisely one of the goals of IMI-SEE. Launched in August 2009 by Northwestern University in partnership with Louisiana State University and a network of more than ten universities and research institutes in China and 15 in the United States, the NSF-funded IMI-SEE aims to foster U.S.-China research, encourage the sharing of research facilities in both countries, and create education programs that facilitate leadership and training.

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Prof. Evgueni Nesterov of Lousiana State University speaks with a Dalian University of Technology researcher during a lab tour. U.S. participants were introduced to the many projects that are being carried out at DUT during the IMI-SEE workshop in September 2011.

Themes of the workshop included nanostructured materials, energy and environment materials, as well as modeling and simulation. The latter was apparent in a discussion that Bob Lochner, a graduate student from the Colorado School of Mines, participated in.

“I was able to observe a discussion in which my adviser, two other American scientists, and two Chinese scientists developed the idea of a collaboration drawing on the modeling, synthesis, and device optimization specializations of those present,” he said. “It was really valuable to me to see how collaboration such as this comes together, and it was exciting to see how the research of one can inform the research of others, and in this case could mean going from an idea to an actual device.”

Besides energizing participants, two promising projects emerged from the workshop. One proposal includes the exploration of inorganic and organic core-shell quantum clusters within a hierarchically organized organic semiconductors that can be created through novel nanofabrication technologies. Another potential venture is to characterize the effects of microstructural elements such as grain boundaries, dislocations, voids and gas bubbles on the development of and recovery of radiation damage in Ti and Zr, two HCP metals representing clad for nuclear fuel.

Carlos Chavez, a graduate student from Louisiana State University, thought the experience was invaluable.

“Overall, the workshop was an excellent experience that will greatly benefit my future career choices in materials science,” he said. “The greatest benefit that I have taken from my trip is the chance to network with intelligent young scientists from institutions far from home.”

Last Updated on Friday, February 24 2012 14:08