Bryn Nugent from Rockport, Maine, graduated from the University of Maine in May with a degree in engineering physics and will pursue a Ph.D. in physics at UMaine.
In the lab: My research in the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology (LASST) involves the surface characterization of langasite (LGS) crystal wafers in high-temperature environments. LGS is used in surface acoustic wave sensor devices that operate at high temperatures (more than 800 degrees Celsius). Because these sensors are extremely surface-sensitive, it’s important that we know exactly how the crystal surface changes when heated. Knowing this will give us more insight into long-term crystal stability at these temperatures, thus ensuring the longevity of the sensor platform.
In the real world: The real-world applications include high-temperature monitoring of turbine engine components during operation. Hopefully, the feedback from the surface acoustic wave sensors will help better predict engine component failure and give a more accurate picture of the wear occurring in these engines. It has the potential to save lots of money and increase the safety of turbine engines.
A summer of sensors: I became involved in this research through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Sensors summer program at LASST in 2009 and 2010. I began my research during the summer project and continued it through the school year. The program is an excellent way to be more involved in in-depth research and it really helped me decide what I wanted to do after graduation. I look back at my participation in the REUs as one of the most important things I did.
LASST word: It has been really wonderful. I worked in cutting-edge facilities with some of the most experienced and talented professional researchers in the country. It was a lot of work, but I find the research I am doing to be extremely rewarding and I learned a lot.