Hugh Smith receives SOURCE funding

Hugh Smith was the first new user trained on the ToF-SIMS

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 academic year was a year of accomplishments for Hugh Smith. He received a Donaldson and Kiefer Scholarship from ASM Cleveland, gave poster presentations, had research published in a paper, ran on the winning team at the Hudson relays and received SOURCE funding to complete summer research.

After using machine learning approaches to study the chemical composition throughout the same type of oxide heterostructure (LaAlO3 thin film deposited on a SrTiO3 substrate) at varying thicknesses to contribute to a research paper, Smith decided to spend the summer expanding on that research with Associate Professor Alp Sehirlioglu. Using the same type of oxide heterostructure, he decided to study surface termination of the substrate on which the thin film was deposited rather than using thickness as the main variable. Smith focused on data analysis in the original paper, but is now doing sample processing, data collection and all the data analysis. One of the main instruments he has used to conduct research is the ToF-SIMS in the Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials. “Thanks to the training and help of John Kim at SCSAM, I feel very comfortable using this machine and interpreting results,” he said. “I have also gotten to learn bits and pieces about other materials characterization techniques and instruments.”

Smith is also using ToF-SIMS for his senior project, which focuses on oxygen partial pressure in processing. He is also using the instrument to assist PhD candidate Elahe Farghadany with her studies. “I am fortunate that SCSAM has the instrumentation that I need for these projects and that I could be trained because the alternative would be to contract everything out which would be much more expensive and slower, so I have been able to collect a lot of data and analyze it right away,” he said.

While Smith’s data science research allows for some flexibility in COVID-19 times, he appreciates being able to spend time doing research both on campus and remotely. “Some weeks I am in the lab or SCSAM everyday while other weeks are entirely or partially remote.”

In addition to expanding his scientific skills, Smith has appreciated connecting with other SOURCE recipients around the university. Every Tuesday and Wednesday, SOURCE offers Lunch and Learn sessions over Zoom covering a wide variety of topics. Smith particularly enjoyed the sessions on intellectual property and ethics in research, as well as a planetary science presentation from Professor Ralph Harvey, with whom Smith took a Planetary Materials course for his geology minor.

This summer, Smith has also been expanding on a project he did in DSCI 352: Applied Data Science Research. For this project, he built on the research of William Huddleston, who graduated in May 2021 with his PhD in materials science and engineering. Predicting the conductivity from microstructure images was Smith's DSCI 352 project and he has focused on predicting the conductivity class this summer. As he continues his research, he is being advised by his DSCI 352 instructor, Research Associate Professor Laura Bruckman. He will present this research in a poster at the annual Materials Science & Technology conference in October.

As he prepares to start his senior year, Smith looks forward to spending time in the new undergraduate lounge with his friends and starting his work with the American Ceramic Society President's Council of Student Advisors, as well as meeting other materials students from around the country at the annual MS&T conference and ACerS Annual Business Meeting. He will also be applying to graduate school.

"I am overall proudest of the independence I have developed in my research over the past year,” said Smith, who completed his applied data science minor during the 2020-2021 academic year. “I have gained experience that allows me to be more comfortable making my own decisions and coming to my own conclusions.”