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Fin, Part II

Now… Time to write about the start of my SURF and tour guide training!


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working in Professor Julia Greer’s lab. While she’s not actually in the chemical engineering department, she is in a materials lab in the Engineering and Applied Science department… and I’m in the materials track of chemE! Her research is centered on the strength of nanostructures. My project specifically is on the mechanical properties and deformation mechanisms of nanopillars. You can read more about it here:https://www.jrgreer.caltech.edu/research.php#nanoscale_deformation.

This first week has primarily been devoted to the electroplating of nanopillar samples and training on various machines. I’ve been making nanopillars that have diameters ranging from 50 nm to 500 nm, via electroplating. This is a process where I have a larger dummy chip and the chip that I want to create pillars on, an anode and cathode placed in a solution of iron, and then a current, which plates the iron onto the chip. The chip itself is 1 cm by 1 cm, and it’s made up of a thin gold layer, on top of a titanium layer that coats a silicon wafer. The gold layer is covered by a template which gives us the pillar structure, and it’s washed off after electroplating using acetone and isopropyl alcohol. Anyways… This tiny chip holds around 60,000 pillars at the center of it!

Here’s a picture of the setup:

The light-green bath on the far left of the picture is for iron, made up of ammonium ferrous sulfate. This is where the anode and cathode are. As for the other solutions, the blue is copper, the small beaker next to that holds the dark green nickel bath. The two bottles in the back hold the dead yellow-colored iron baths that don’t work anymore, because the Fe(II) oxidized to Fe(III).

Once the pillars are created, we take them down to the clean room to use the SEMentor, which is a scanning electron microscope combined with a nanoindentor. This allows us to see the pillars and also conduct a number of tests on them. There’s also another machine, the G200, that we use to gather compression test data.

We have to wear lots of ridiculous clean room gear when we use the SEMentor, like the people in this random photo I found:

And look! Here’s a picture of the super cute nanopillars that Jarvis, another SURF student, made! This is of 100 nm nickel nanopillars, magnified at 40x. Normally, 100 nm is too small to see easily, but these pillars were overplated. [I’d show you a picture of mine, but my project currently isn’t working… My mentor and I are working to figure out why.]

Oh, and here’s a picture of some of my iron nanopillars, taken by the SEMentor:

And here’s a close-up of one:

Anyways, this has only been the past two weeks of my SURF project. There’s a lot more stuff to come.

Tour Guide

Now that my stint as an admissions blogger is reaching an end, I found myself a new job to do! I’d wanted to be a tour guide ever since I became a Techer. After all, my choice to come here was thanks to a tour here, where I fell in love with the beautiful campus, unique culture, and academic challenge of Caltech. Soo… I wanted to share my love with others! 😀

There were a ton of tour guide applicants. If I remember right, there were at least 50 applicants, but only room for about 20. To apply, we filled out a form and went through two interviews. From there, those of us who were chosen had to undergo training, which involved shadowing two tours and attending an information session. Anyways, I went to those… and now I’m a fully trained tour guide! I’ll probably start giving tours in July, after I come back from my two week vacation with family. I still have a lot to prepare before that happens though: I need to plan out a route and also figure out what I want to say to people… Also, I need to figure out how to walk backwards while talking to a large group without falling over. Now that is going to be the key challenge… xP.

And with that… Goodbye! This is my last post. D: Thanks for reading my blogs this past year; I had a lot of fun writing for you guys!

You guys should come to Caltech and catch one of my tours! ;D


Jennifer Zhu