Student Spotlight

Quantum Nanostructures and Nanofabrication Group: Sam Nicaise

Sam Nicaise

Hometown, Country:
Covington, Kentucky, USA

Academic history prior to coming to MIT:
BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Kentucky, SM in Electrical Engineering from MIT

What brought you to MIT?
As an undergrad, I found myself extremely interested in nanoscience and nanotechnology. This interest spurred my work in the Electronic Devices Research Group throughout my whole bachelor’s degree, and instilled the goal of getting a PhD. After traveling to MIT for EECS Visit Days and talking to students and professors, I fell in love with the university. I realized that the research, energy, and people at MIT were special, and that MIT was where I wanted be.

What problem are you trying to solve with your current research and what are some possible applications?
There are two major approaches for nanopatterning materials, either top-down (engineering-based) or bottom-up (materials- and chemistry-based). My research is the marriage of the two domains, in which we try to harness the best of both worlds. Specifically, I’ve specialized in charged-particle lithography to produce templates for self-assembling systems, such as block copolymers or nanowires. By marrying the two systems, the self-assembly can be more controlled. This research currently being applied in integrated chip fabrication, and will soon become important for fields like sub-wavelength optics, biomolecular engineering, and energy devices.

What interests you most about your research?
My research is at the confluence of many different disciplines, and therefore it allows for collaboration with all kinds of people around MIT. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t learn something new and interesting from another researcher. Nanotechnology is an area which takes a talented team of researchers, and I am amped up daily by this collaboration.

What are your future plans?
I hope to find a new team of researchers where I can continue to collaborate. Nanotechnology has the potential to solve some of the world’s largest challenges – from “big data” to healthcare, from climate change to space exploration. I expect to continue to be an integral part of the teams which will innovate these technologies.

Learn more about the Quantum Nanostructures and Nanofabrication Group