Job Posting

Undergraduate Research Assistant – Materials Engineering


Position Information


Porous materials may find a wide range of applications in the optical and photonics fields in the near future, including filtration and separation systems capable of providing real-time information about the efficacy of such processes through opto-electronic transduction mechanisms, entrapment of optically active molecules (e.g., lasing polymers and fluorescent dyes), and sensor coatings that possess size- and shape-selectivity. Crystalline, porous materials, such as zeolites, exhibit such selectivity through their molecular-sieving abilities. Additionally, zeolites have other highly-desirable properties for commercial optoelectronic applications, including high surface area, high pore volume, excellent thermal and chemical stability, and innate long-range order. However, current challenges in this area include the lack of specific knowledge about the optical properties (refractive indices, vibrational modes, absorbance and emission bands, etc.) of zeolitic materials.

We have begun a systematic effort to characterize and catalog such properties. Understanding the intricate relationships between synthesis parameters and final optical properties will provide system designers with the ability to fine-tune zeolite synthesis to suit particular applications. Moreover, unusual and heretofore unknown material properties may come to light during this process. For example, we have recently demonstrated that some zeolites are capable of producing photoluminescence if synthesized under the correct conditions. As part of an ongoing, systematic effort to understand and predict the fundamental interactions between infrared light and zeolitic structures, the goal of this study is to examine the complex interrelationships among composition, structure, crystallization parameters, and the vibrational spectra of various compositions of a number of zeolite frameworks. In collaboration with Prof. Hammond in Chemical Engineering, whose group focuses on efforts to predict these properties, we synthesize and characterize the materials to gain a better understanding of their optoelectronic properties.

We are looking for passionate, engaged undergraduate students interested in directly impacting how we design, develop, and create new material systems to address specific problems functional devices for communications, computing, sensing, etc.. We encourage students who will be entering their sophomore year through current juniors to apply. We are looking for students in Chemistry, Physics, Bioengineering, and Chemical Engineering who have a strong interest in doing materials synthesis and characterization. Students will have the opportunity to work with a number of characterization techniques, which will add to their marketable skills upon graduation and make them highly qualified for jobs in industry, in addition to preparation for graduate or medical school. Students will have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University and Mizzou, in both computational and experimental techniques.

Students will be trained on all techniques and skills required, but wet lab experience is preferred.

Required Skills

At least two terms of chemistry and one term of a chemistry laboratory.

Preferred Qualifications

Experience with any of the following techniques: X-ray Diffraction, Thermogravimetric Analysis, Differential Scanning Calorimetry, FTIR, UV-VIS, SEM / TEM, profilometry, contact angle measurement, basic wet lab techniques are preferred.

Faculty Mentor or Sponsor

Other Comments

Please email Prof. Hunt with the following information:
1. Your resume
2. Your unofficial transcript

Do NOT call Prof. Hunt - questions via email only, please.

We encourage students to include a resume or transcript when e-mailing a faculty mentor to apply for a posted position.