Meet Frederick Pearsall: Chemistry PhD Student

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Nanotech NYC sits down with students, faculty and researchers from across the city to give those interested a glimpse into the local nanotechnology scene. Today we sit down with Frederick Pearsall, a 5th year PhD student in the Chemistry Department at Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Frederick Pearsall, Chemistry PhD Student at The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Tell us a little bit about where you are from.

Hello Jacob! Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. I’m very excited about the community you’re building with n2yc and am even more excited to be a part of it. I’ve lived in New York almost my entire life and traveled east as I grew up. I started in Sunset Park, Brooklyn then Glendale, Queens. Finally, and this is where I spent most of my time growing up, I moved to Nassau County, Long Island. The town is called Franklin Square and it’s one of the many small neighborhoods stuck together on (that’s right on) the Island. It’s suburban, with the need to drive just about anywhere, quiet, with large backyards and houses. I enjoyed the calmer aspects growing up and the city was a train ride away; I was able to visit occasionally for concerts and events. While growing up I thought about how I would like to return to New York one day.


Where did you complete your undergraduate and any graduate degrees prior to this one?

I attended Stony Brook University for a BSc in chemistry, which was a great experience academically and personally. The courses I took really prepared me for graduate school, and I owe a lot to the community of professors who mentored me during my time as a teaching assistant and undergraduate researcher. A lot of my memorable experiences come from undergraduate research and the SBU fencing team. My undergraduate mentor, Fernando Raineri, was a great support and is a major reason why I became interested in obtaining a PhD. As for fencing, I joined the team and fell in love immediately (with foil of course), eventually becoming a coach and executive board member, organizing trips, competitions and scheduling events.

Freddy at the Agilent 4294A Precision Impedance Analyzer used to measure a capacitor's stability, loss and energy storage capabilities. This data allows him to understand the intrinsic mechanisms responsible for the macroscopic electronic properties observed.

What is your current status as a graduate student?

I am in my last semester of the five-year Nanotechnology and Materials Science PhD program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. I will graduate in May 2019 and am incredibly excited for the next stage in my career.


What group are you in and what is the group’s overall focus?

In 2014 I joined Professor Stephen O’Brien’s group at the Center for Discovery and Innovation, located at CUNY’s West Harlem campus. Our groups’ focus and mission are the application of nanotechnology to advancements in energy and data storage. We value integration into existing device paradigms, “R&D within the context of economic reality.” Specifically, we use scalable chemical solution processing methods to synthesize unique nanoscale compounds and characterize their structural, electronic, magnetic and other properties. You can find out more about our group here: https://www.obrien-research.org/.

Freddy at a Denton Benchtop Turbo Evaporator were he fabricates the metal-insulator-metal capacitors he studies using thin films. With this instrument he can evaporate several metal thin films made from copper, silver, gold and palladium used to make electrical for his measurements.

What is your particular research on?

Using a method developed in our group, I synthesize nanoparticle oxides consisting of transition metals such as titanium, manganese and iron. The compounds I create have advanced energy and data storage applications. Depending on the desired application and the characterization techniques I decide to use, I process the particles differently, using them in thin films or as magnets. For my PhD I focused mostly on discovering novel materials for nanocomposites, measuring their permittivity in capacitors. I’ve worked a lot with an LCR impedance analyzer which measures the capacitance (among some other things) of a device while applying an AC voltage. By sweeping the frequency of this AC field, I learn about the stability of my materials and gain insight on their ability to store and release charge quickly and efficiently. A major challenge I have faced is finding a concomitantly stable and efficient capacitor, which is something I have overcome by creating nanocomposites with unique components and preparation methods. As a lot of my work involves characterization, I must also find ways to analyze large amounts of data which is something I have learned to deal with using Python, which has saved me a lot of time in the long run.


Can you tell me about some potential future applications for your work?

The materials and devices I work on have applications in energy and data storage. I fabricate capacitors which may be used as incorporated power conversion components, that can be manufactured simultaneously with printed circuit-boards (PCBs). In other words, by incorporating these capacitors, there’s plenty more room for other components, such as processors, resistors and more on a PCB. My other work is on multiferroics and it has applications in computer memory and data storage, which takes advantage of the interaction between magnetic and electronic properties present within a single material. Researchers are looking for coupling behavior between these properties, which would allow for 4-bit data storage, non-volatile memory advancements, and improved spintronics applications. Companies as large as Intel, prompted by miniaturization issues such as the self-fulfilling prophecy of Moore’s Law, are working on devices which take full advantage of coupled multiferroics.