By Jenna Brady, ARL Public AffairsMay 1, 2018
ADELPHI, Md. -- The National Science Foundation recently selected a student intern from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory for its graduate research fellowship program.
Sabrina Curtis, a University of Maryland materials science and engineering master's candidate, received the fellowship to support her future educational plans.
The highly competitive fellowship for science and engineering graduate students in the United States provides three years of financial support for winning candidates.
"Winning the prestigious NSF fellowship means the world to me," Curtis said. "The fellowship funds provide me full personal and research freedom to explore any research topic I want for my doctorate. This gives me the opportunity to define my own thesis and allows me to go for the high-risk and high-reward research projects that other students might not have the chance to explore."
As a result, Curtis established an international collaboration among scientists and engineers at ARL, Vanderbilt University and the University of Kiel in Germany to ensure success during the journey to her doctorate.
Curtis has been working at ARL for the past two years in the Power Components Branch creating and characterizing stretchable gallium nitride and silicon structures to expand the application space for Soldier power and energy conversion electronics.
"My master's research is focused on characterizing stress in stretchable crystalline semiconductor materials," Curtis said.
Curtis explained the Army needs wearable and efficient high-power and high-energy systems that can elastically bend, flex and stretch by a minimum of 30 percent strain for integration directly into the Soldier's uniform or onto their skin.
"Single crystal materials such as silicon or gallium nitride are used in a number of power generation and energy harvesting applications, and are not intrinsically flexible or stretchable due to their low tensile strain," Curtis said. "My research modeled, fabricated and characterized the stress/strain behavior of Si and GaN in stretchable geometries, experimentally showing Si could stretch up to 84 percent strain, far beyond the wearable-electronics requirement."
According to Curtis, the most rewarding part of working at ARL is constantly being in a friendly and collaborative research environment.
"I have learned so much over the last two years from being surrounded by brilliant scientists and engineers who are always more than willing to help me tackle any problem," Curtis said. "I love the fact that everyone comes from very different scientific and educational backgrounds, which causes everyone to critically think about the problems in a different way. I have definitely gained a new insightful prospective of how to conduct research from working here."
Two researchers from whom Curtis has learned the most are her mentors, Dr. Nathan Lazarus and Dr. Randy Tompkins.
"The mentorship I have received from Nathan and Randy is invaluable, and I am excited that we plan to stay in close contact throughout my Ph.D., as they inspired me to continue in the field of stretchable power and energy devices," Curtis said.
Curtis plans to continue working on stretchable devices in collaboration with ARL as she moves on for her doctorate in materials science at Vanderbilt University after receiving her master's degree at UMD.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.