Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Greg Wrobel

Project Title: Ingenuity Incubators Prepare Technical High School Students for College Engineering
Thesis: Synthesis, Field Emission and Associated Degradation Mechanisms of Needle-Shaped ZnO Nanorods
College/University: University of Connecticut
Research Advisor: Puxian Gao
Degree Sought: Materials Science and Engineering
Department: Chemical, Materials and Biomolecular Engineering
Research Focus: Nanomaterial Synthesis and Application
Teaching Partner(s): Donna Goyette, Linda Edmonds

Description of Research

I study synthesis and applications of functional nanomaterials made via chemical solutions heated for a given amount of time. I am particularly interested in zinc oxide (ZnO), zinc hydroxystannate (ZnSn(OH)6), and tin oxide (SnO) nanomaterials grown on metal substrates at relatively low temperatures. By altering the temperature, time, and chemical concentration etc., the shape and size of these materials can be tailored to specific technological applications including solar cells, gas detection, flame retardancy, electron emission and battery applications to name a few.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

Nanomaterials are helping to advance electronics technology by making devices faster, smaller, and less expensive. I’m always trying to generate excitement from the students by discussing awesome future application potential related to the topics they’re learning in class. It helps to give abstract topics a bit of relevance. When working with nanomaterials, it’s easy to establish a unique objective we want to achieve, but the steps needed to achieve that goal aren’t clear. Sometimes it takes a “just do it” approach to succeed. At times the result is fantastic, other times not so much, and once in a while we get something totally unexpected and fantastic. With projects etc. I let students know what they have to accomplish as the end result, with a few guidelines, but ultimately it’s up to them to pick the route to accomplish their goal. It promotes leadership, self-confidence, and creativity–better preparing them for anything the future throws their way.