Fellowship gives student freedom to explore research interests

// Materials Science & Engineering

Tags: fellowship, graduate student, MS&E

Photo of Laz German
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Laz German, graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received a 3M Fellowship. The three-year fellowship, which is funded by 3M and selected by the department’s graduate committee, gives German financial freedom to pursue research that he is most excited about. And in the lab of his advisor, Xudong Wang, associate professor of materials science and engineering, there is a lot that German is excited about.

German’s research deals with photoelectrochemical devices, which are the interfaces between two materials of dissimilar composition at which electrochemical reactions take place. The electrochemical differences between the materials at these interfaces creates potential energy.

German uses software to create predictive models of energy-harnessing experiments and then investigates how those models match up with results from existing theories. In doing so, he informs how to capture energy more efficiently so that it can be used to as a renewable fuel source.

German also works on piezoelectric devices, which convert the mechanical energy from pressure into electricity. These devices have the potential to harness the mechanical energy from body movement, low-speed wind, and low-level vibrations such as sound waves so that it can be used in other applications ranging from wearable technologies to power-generating sidewalks.

Besides research, German juggles class and teaching. The support he receives from the 3M Fellowship for his work in Wang’s lab allows German to hone his understanding of the fundamentals of solid state physics and electrochemical systems. “I can apply what I’ve learned in class and independently, which helps me in the lab and in my teaching,” says German.

He has yet to solidify his career goals, but he is confident that the work he is doing will allow him to be professionally malleable.

The 3M fellowship allows German to explore different options that can help narrow down what he might want to do professionally. It’s an opportunity to discover his interest and find his passion. “It’s about the journey,” says German.

Author: Pat DeFlorin