• Matt_s Swirls

Allen Chang

A Maryland native, I grew up in Gaithersburg right in the backyard of NIST. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2015 with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. In the early days of my undergraduate research career, I interned as a physical science trainee at NIST for 2 summers under the supervision of Dr. Amanda Forster. This marked my introduction to polymer research where I studied the integrity of polyaramid fibers from both fielded and virgin ballistic armor packs. In the latter half of my college experience, I fabricated and characterized alloys of noble metals for plasmonic nanostructures, specifically for solar cell enchancement, under the guidance of Dr. Marina Leite. 

Having had exposure to polymer engineering and photovoltaic research, I had always wanted to put the two together and make some type of ubiquitous solar cell. The idea and motivation for going toward polymers was that I wanted to make solar cell string, fiber, yarn, something of that nature. At the point when I decided to come to UMass, I figured I had a decent understanding of solar cells, but no solid education in polymers. I decided to come to the home of polymer science and engineering as so described by my department head and PSE Alum, Dr. Rob Briber.

January 2017, I volunteered for the ASPIRE outreach program, teaching high school students about impact testing and the behaviors of polymers in sudden impact situations. The most exciting and rewarding part was just getting to interact with young minds. They were all out to learn something and once they got engaged, it was easy to talk science at a basic and interesting level with them. I love teaching, especially when I get to see the expression of someone understanding a concept and putting all the pieces together. 

My most recent and significant award at this point in time is the NSFGRFP, in support of my proposal to take my plasmonic nanostructure work to a higher level, making and analyzing alloys of ternary and potentially quaternary mixtures. To have been awarded such a prestigious fellowship is a huge honor.

I chose UMass PSE for a few reasons, the main ones being the people, the conversations, the faculty, and probably just Conte itself. Everyone here is on a similar wavelength and it is easy to talk, collaborate, and learn from one another. Conte itself is a self-sustaining community, something I couldn’t find at the other schools I visited. Best of all, everyone in Conte can understand each other, no matter how far flung research topics end up being. The baseline of communication feels much higher here than at other institutions where material scientists may have little to no overlap, for example, between a metallurgist and ceramics researcher. We all speak and understand polymers here and that makes communication so much easier.  

I am currently working on grafting polymers to cellulose nanocrystals and being the 2016-2017 PSE Club President on the side. I hope to synthesis semiconductive nanocrystals of cellulose which can be used for all-paper transistors or other unconventional applications. In the future, I hope to utilize grafted cellulose nanocrystals in cellulose additive applications. I believe that chemically binding a cellulose additive into a composite network will show improvements in material properties compared to composites where additives are merely mixed in and bound by secondary forces.

After grad school, I would love to work in industry for some time, but I do want to become a professor. Teaching has always been fun and enjoyable for me. A track similar to Dr. Ken Carter or Dr. Bryan Coughlin would be the ideal goal.