Elliot Weiss and co-researcher Joshua Rollag investigated a unique material .

My research experience here at Macalester has been integral to my growth not only as a student, but also as a future employee.
—Elliot Weiss

By Elliot Weiss ’17
Northampton, Mass.

As the evidence supporting the devastating effects of global climate change continues to pile up, large-scale renewable energy collection becomes increasingly urgent. Scientists and engineers all over the world are striving to find efficient technologies to harvest more from the abundant renewable energy sources that Mother Nature provides, such as hydropower, wind power, and solar power. Focusing on solar power here in Professor James Heyman’s lab, we investigated the properties of a new material that could be used to create highly efficient, yet affordable, solar cells.

My specific research, working alongside Professor Heyman and Joshua Rollag ’17, involved using ultrafast time-resolved terahertz spectroscopy to measure the conductivity of an intermediate band semiconducting material, GaPAs:N, at various thermal conditions. To put it simply, we were shooting lasers at a unique material to measure how much light it absorbs at different temperatures (ranging from about -300°F to 80°F). This allowed us to investigate the material’s conductivity with respect to both time and temperature, ultimately helping us determine whether or not it could be a viable candidate for future use in a more efficient and affordable solar cell.

My research experience here at Macalester has been integral to my growth not only as a student, but also as a future employee. For every physics student at Macalester, conducting undergraduate research is a graduation requirement. This ensures that all physics majors have valuable, hands-on experience that helps bridge the gap between school and a career. I frequently had to apply concepts and laboratory techniques learned in class to the specific scenarios I encountered, allowing me to make educated decisions and perform relevant experiments that nobody else in the world had ever conducted before.

This opportunity has given me a glimpse into what an occupation in a research-driven field might entail. In fact, between witnessing the fascinating real-world applications of what I have learned in the classroom, experiencing all the joys (and frustrations) of conducting research, and having the opportunity to make a real contribution to the scientific community, I can definitely see myself enjoying a future career in scientific research.

Elliot’s research was supported by a Beltmann Summer Research Fellowship.



February 2 2017

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