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 Zohreh Jalilvand, a 5th year PhD student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the City College of New York.
Where did you complete your undergraduate and graduate degrees prior to this one?
I have completed both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in chemical engineering at Amirkabir University (Tehran Polytechnic) in Tehran, Iran.
How was your transition from Tehran to NYC?
As an Iranian student, I was aware that I was going to face many challenges in pursuing a Ph.D. in the United States. One of the most challenging things is knowing that due to visa restrictions, I cannot go back home to visit my family for at least five to six years. Moving to the US was however an avenue to success, providing me with several opportunities to learn and grow in the field of chemical engineering by attending a great Ph.D. program, as well as learning about new cultures with amazing people around me.
What is your current status as a graduate student?
I was accepted to the Chemical Engineering PhD program at the City College of New York (CCNY) in 2014 and I started my research under the supervision of Professor Ilona Kretzschmar in 2015. Currently I am in the 5th year of my PhD program and I anticipate graduating in a year (2019).
What group are you in and what is your particular research on?
Under the supervision of Professor Kretzschmar, my research focuses on the experimental studies and the simulation of the motion of active colloids. It involves the fabrication and surface modification of so called Janus and patchy particles, which are micron sized spherical particles with different surface properties. We study these systems experimentally and through theoretical analysis. For the theoretical part of my research we collaborate with Professor Joel Koplik from the Physics department and the Benjamin Levich Institute for Physico-Chemical Hydrodynamics, CCNY.
What are some of the types of experiments or experimental equipment that you utilize in investigating or fabricating your nano-particles?
In order to fabricate Janus or patchy particles, spherical polystyrene particles are assembled into close-packed monolayers on a glass slide using a syringe pump or spin coater. Subsequently, physical vapor deposition (PVD) or E-beam evaporator are used to coat the particles with platinum. The thickness of the platinum cap on particles is in the order of 10 nm. After deposition, patchy particles are dispersed in deionized water by sonication.
For experiments, the dispersion of patchy particles is mixed with an aqueous hydrogen peroxide solution, which results in patchy particle swimmers. The patchy swimmer motion is observed using a microscope. The trajectories of patchy swimmers are recorded for 60 seconds at a rate of 10 frames per second. Finally, the motion of the patchy swimmers is analyzed using a modified MATLAB program to investigate the motion of these particles and the results used to characterize the swimming mechanism.
Can you tell us about potential future applications for your work?
Potential applications may explore various ways to address particular health challenges, including targeted drug delivery, cancer fighting-agent delivery, lab-on-chip particle transport, as well as environmental applications.
How did you figure out you wanted to specialize in this area?
I figured studying the motion of micron size particles, which lies in the field of colloidal science and has a broad range of applications, would provide me with several opportunities to gain expertise in experimental techniques and equipment, as well as theoretical tools. Motivated by that, I chose to do my research in this area, with an aim to broaden my skills in colloidal science.
How do you explain what you study to friends or family members that don’t know anything about nanotechnology?
I would start with the scale of the experiments that I deal with and give them a sense of that, followed by the application of my research. Then, I would try to give them a big picture of what my research looks like by connecting my studies to the far-reaching application.
Where do you hope to take your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
I am very interested in colloidal science research as well as learning more about other related fields and possibly exploring them in more detail. I am hoping to join a research and development team at a company where I can utilize my skill set and knowledge efficiently to move the company’s objectives forward. I believe that this particular environment would provide me the opportunity for continuous learning and a path for career advancement. I hope to keep myself dynamic and visionary throughout the challenges that I may face.
What do you do for fun outside of your program?
During my spare time, I enjoy running, doing yoga, exercising in general and playing Ping-Pong. I like to cook and hang out with friends. Also, I enjoy watching movies, reading books and painting.
Favorite movies or books?
A couple of my favorite movies are Leon: the professional, 1900, Mad Max, Midnight in Paris, Separation and my favorite series is Game of Thrones. I enjoyed reading Man's Search for Meaning, Gone With The Wind, Harry Potter, The Alchemist, The Lies We Tell Ourselves and a couple Persian books such as Missing Soluch, Her Eyes, Fall is the last season...
If you could go back to the first day you started your graduate work and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
I think I have tried to do my best so far, but I would always say: Stay strong, be patient and focused and enjoy every single moment of your life.