While at this year’s APS March, I was fortunate enough to see Jeremy Robinson of the U.S Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) talking about his work with hybridized graphene materials. A recipient of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, Robinson works with functionalized graphene surfaces to create sensors and nanoelectronic devices. His understanding of material synthesis and characterization allows him create graphene-based materials, which have new and exciting applications. Here, he talks more about his research and the motivation behind his discoveries.
Q: What research projects are you and your group currently working on?
Our current research focuses on atomically-thin materials, or two-dimensional (2D) materials, such as graphene and transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) monolayers. Following traditions within materials science and engineering, we currently work to: (I) modify material properties through chemistry and defect engineering, (II) develop new ways to manipulate and form complex systems using 2D materials, and (III) use this knowledge to build prototype devices (e.g., sensors, RF electronics) that have increased or new functionality.
Q: What motivated you to pursue this field of research?
My initial motivation: this research area was in its early stages of development and looked to be a promising new field within materials science. Like others, we were impressed with the material quality and properties of atomically-thin samples that could be generated outside of traditional vacuum deposition techniques. And as with most happenings in science and life, timing also played a significant role. I was transitioning into a new institution and was looking for new research directions.
Q: Where do you think the field is heading?
The field of 2D materials is very popular worldwide. Intentionally isolated graphene has now been studied for over 10 years and TMD monolayers for a slightly shorter time. The intense focus to develop large-area, high-quality samples is paying off and many in the field are now working to understand how to build more complex systems made from many different 2D layers (i.e., heterostructures). The larger point here is that 2D materials will only be “useful” (i.e., widely commercialized) when we understand and control how they are interfaced with other materials. As such, it’s all about the interface!
Q: Who inspired you to become a scientist?
I had one particular professor in college (Dr. David Schaefer) who was committed to introducing students to hands-on research. After a spending a few summers in his lab, I was hooked!
Q: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I find two aspects of scientific research very rewarding. The first is that research is a creative outlet. A definition of creativity I connect well with is that it is the quest to identify the simplest solution to a problem. The second aspect is discovery. It is still possible to be the first person to observe something in nature, or to be the first to identify a new way manipulate nature. How exciting!
Q: What advice would give to young scientists?
Remember that people (a.k.a. humans) ‘do’ science. For most of us, our individual capacity to solve large problems is limited. Focus on honing a particular area/skill that you really like and feel you are good at. Afterwards, meet as many other scientists as possible and work to connect everyone’s different talents to solve an important problem.
Graphene: from functionalization to devices, a special issue from the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics is available to read now.
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Categories: Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter