MSE Ph.D. Candidate Receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

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Dylan Kirsch - currently a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) - received a 2020 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF). The NSF-GRF offers three years of funding, renewed annually, in support of masters and doctoral research in STEM fields. The fellowship will support Kirsch's current research - a DOE-funded collaboration between the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC), UMD, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as a few other universities - which focuses on materials physics.  

"My current research centers around the combinatorial thin film synthesis and high-throughput structural and transport property measurements of energy storage and conversion materials, particularly in the area of thermoelectrics" said Kirsch. "My primary role in the project is to design and construct a new thermal property measurement instrument in the Materials Measurement Lab at NIST under the guidance of Dr. Joshua Martin. The instrument employs a technique called a Frequency Domain Thermoreflectance (FDTR), which uses a modulated heating laser and continuous probe laser scheme to heat the surface and extract the thermal properties of a thin film sample, respectively. This instrument will be useful beyond the DOE project, and will allow for the thermal characterization of essentially almost any novel material. Utilizing these extensive resources, we hope to discover high-performing thermoelectrics that are cheap, earth abundant and non-toxic."

Kirsch, who was born and raised in Rockville, Md. began his undergraduate studies at UMD in 2014, but was unsure of which to major to choose.

"I realized that energy storage and conversion technologies are inherently an academic challenge, but the complexity is what leads to substantial positive impacts on society and is what pulled me towards this field," he said. "I eventually discovered the MSE department and Professor Liangbing Hu - I was instantly fascinated by his groups work and all of the key areas that materials science has a fundamental part in. I worked in Dr. Hu's lab during most of my undergraduate studies under the guidance of Dr. Steven Lacey (a grad student at the time, currently at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland). With his mentorship, we published notable papers on 3D printing and alternative processing of advanced battery electrodes."

After completing his undergraduate degree, Kirsch decided to continue on to graduate school. Once accepted, he was awarded the A. James Clark Doctoral Fellowship from the Clark School.

"UMD provides a wonderful and diverse research experience that is unmatched by other schools," Kirsch said. "The breadth of knowledge and research fields in MSE alone is amazing. Additionally, UMD has strong partnerships with national labs in D.C. area and across the U.S. I aspire to work for NIST post-graduation. In fact, I spent the summer prior to entering grad school at NIST doing fundamental characterization of combinatorial thin films using Raman Spectroscopy under the mentorship of Dr. Angela Hight-Walker. That experience cemented my curiosity for fundamental characterization techniques and my passion for the national lab environment."

Beyond academics, Kirsch - who is currently co-advised by Ichiro Takeuchi and Liangbing Hu - loves playing volleyball, hiking, snowboarding and traveling. He is on track to graduate in spring 2022.

Published June 10, 2020