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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

REU student explores the Chemistry associated with Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics at The University of Kansas

Ryan Hamelin
     Ryan Hamelin, an undergraduate student from Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, traveled to the University of Kansas (KU) this summer to work with Dr. Chris Elles and his team on a Chemistry REU project titled “Non-Resonant Excitation of Photochromic Molecules in the Plasmonic Field of Gold Nanoparticles.” This KU REU summer project is part of a larger educational initiative sponsored by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF ESPSCoR AMO collaborative grant titled “Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures.” The purpose of Ryan’s project was to study “how the plasmonic field of gold nanoparticles can be used to induce a non-resonant excitation of photochromic molecules."
     Ryan's research journey began the first semester of his sophomore year.  After completing a lab, his general Chemistry professor saw potential in Ryan and invited him to participate in a research project outside of the classroom.  Ryan was quick to accept this opportunity because becoming a scientific researcher was something he has always aspired to do.  The following semester, Ryan continued to work with Dr. Steven Fiedler at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts on a research project titled “The Permeation of Nanoparticles Through a Lipid Bilayer"
     Dr. Fiedler recognized Ryan’s passion for conducting scientific research so he recommended he apply for Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Programs.  Ryan began his search for an REU on Google and the Kansas opportunity “just caught his eye.”  Ryan applied for five different opportunities across the United States, but Kansas was the first to make him an offer, "so naturally he accepted."

Dr. Elles and his Summer REU Team; Ryan conducting his research
     Ryan commented that this “REU program has just been great for me, … I've made a lot of friends…. and I learned a lot about "photochromic" molecules and surface "plasmons".  He also mentioned the experience provided him with a more in depth opportunity to expand his skills conducting Chemistry experiments, to learn about graduate school and to explore possible careers that are available to students with Chemistry degrees.  However, the best part of the experience for Ryan was, “coming to a new place, that I've never been to before and participating in new research.”
    As for his future, Ryan plans to continue his research with his mentor, Dr. Fiedler, possibly pursue another REU next summer involving either Chemistry or Math and eventually become a lab technician or mathematician.  As for graduate school, Ryan said he "isn't all that interested right now," but he has plenty of time to reconsider its prospects.