The Erlenmeyer Flask






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December 20, 2013

Stefan Lucchini on Undergraduate Research

Guest Blogger: Stefan Lucchini

Undergraduate research began as something I heard really helped someone get into grad school.  I was by no means a 4.0 student, which made me worry about my chances of getting into top schools after graduating.  I knew that one of my best options for gaining a competitive advantage was going to be hands on experience working in research.  Being only a freshman taking general chemistry, I did not have the greatest qualifications nor much of an idea as to what specific areas of research interested me.  Knowing I had to act quickly to get as much experience as possible, I emailed every professor whose research sounded interesting.

The professor I ended up working for was Dr. Darrah Thomas, an emeritus professor.  His research focus is in electron spectroscopy of small molecules.  Working in research completely changed my perspective on education.  It allowed me to fast-forward to the part where I am making a lasting, substantial contribution to scientific understanding.  Prior to my work with Dr. Thomas, I was coasting along my undergrad without much drive at all to end up anywhere.  I had no goal and no clear understanding of what I hoped to become.  By working in research, I was immersed in the wonders of scientific pursuit.  It was inspiring and it resulted in a sharp increase in my academic performance.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the work I did for Dr. Thomas, I felt compelled to explore other areas of chemistry.  When considering just how long a career is, I wanted to make sure I have found exactly the right field for me to call home.  After working in physical chemistry, material science, and biochemistry, I decided to material science was a place I could call home.  It was the perfect combination of chemistry and physics, all while being a booming, growing field with an exciting future.  I have been working for Dr. Douglas Keszler for 2 years so far and intend to continue until I graduate.

My work with Dr. Keszler has been focused on the thickness changes and ion exchange of HfO₂₋x(SO₄)x (HafSOx).  HafSOx is an inorganic photoresist material discovered in the Keszler laboratory.  The key, distinguishing feature of HafSOx is that it is currently the world leader in lithography resolution.  Through use of electron beam simulation, it has been found that HafSOx will be capable of lithographic techniques using extreme ultraviolet light, which are currently in development.  It will be capable of creating 13.5nm devices.  The extreme resolution capabilities of HafSOx will enable to be used to create ultra-small transistors and other electrical devices.  I feel privileged to be a part of such an exciting research project!

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