Keeley Marin Stevens, '07
Project: Lateral Force Calibration for Probe Microscopy
We focused on the problem of measuring sliding friction at the nanoscale using an atomic force microscope (AFM). We analyzed a number of published methods for this calibration, developed our own system that was compatible with the available equipment, and explored the results on various surfaces.
Why I chose this project:
Dr. Burnham had presented a bit on her research work when I was a freshman, and I was able to take the AFM training class my sophomore year. I found the material to be fascinating, engaging, and fundamental.
How I have benefitted from my MQP as a person and a student:
My MQP let me explore what hands-on experimental physics involved: the time, the frustration, and the successes that are there on a daily basis. It convinced me that I was following the correct path onto graduate school.
How this experience made me stronger in my field:
After my MQP in atomic force microscopy friction measurements, I came to graduate school at North Carolina State University. Since I had a wonderful experience in the field of friction, I quickly joined Dr. Jacqueline Krim's research group. She focuses on measuring friction using quartz crystal microbalances, and while we don't use AFMs on a regular basis, my experience has not gone to waste; I have been very well prepared to understand new research in the field and to interpret AFM data used in our work.
What I accomplished:
We laid the groundwork for a multiyear MQP, which culminated in 2011 with the publication of "Shape-Independent Lateral Force Calibration" in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Additional comments about the project system in general at WPI:
I think the MQP is really an excellent chance to do meaningful science and engineering research as part of an undergraduate degree. The one-on-one mentoring makes it stand out from many of the senior capstone projects and makes a meaningful culmination to the WPI Plan.