The ALS Doctoral Fellowship program, which began back in 2001, allows early-career researchers to spend a year in residence at the ALS acquiring hands-on scientific training and developing professional skills to complement their doctoral research. This year’s program is one of the largest groups to date, with 21 doctoral fellows. The program is open to students who have passed their Ph.D. qualifying or comprehensive exams, and advanced to candidacy. Applicants must be full-time students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the physical, biological, or environmental sciences, pursuing thesis research using synchrotron radiation.
“These are doctoral students who are in the middle of their thesis work, and so it’s a great opportunity for them,” says ALS Deputy Director for Science Steve Kevan. “It’s good for our staff to have extra hands around, and the program has actually helped developed our user community, as we have doctoral fellows who have come back as postdocs, faculty, and users.”
Natalie Larson, a current ALS doctoral fellow, will definitely be back at the ALS as a future user after her fellowship. She was actually already coming to the ALS to do her research before she applied for her fellowship—so it seemed like a very natural evolution when the opportunity to apply for the fellowship presented itself.
Larson is a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara in the materials department. Her research is focused on developing the fundamental science base needed to address defect evolution in ceramic matrix composite (CMC) processing. She has been working with beamline scientists Dula Parkinson and Alastair MacDowell at Beamline 8.3.2, developing experiments for in situ x-ray computed tomography (XCT) experiments to observe 3D real-time defect formation in CMCs.
“One opportunity for enhancing CMC performance involves developing improved matrix processing protocols. Current processing methods typically leave behind various defects, such as porosity and impurities that limit CMC performance,”says Larson. “At the ALS I’m focusing on one specific processing technique, polymer impregnation and pyrolysis, which leaves behind bubbles and cracks in the matrix. With in-situ XCT imaging during processing, we can observe when and where the bubbles and cracks form. With this information, we aim to develop strategies to engineer or eliminate these defects.”
“I was drawn to the ALS because of the advanced capabilities at the beamline,” she says. “I wanted to be able to look at CMCs in 3D at high temperatures, and I came across a paper from the Ritchie group at Berkeley Lab that highlighted the ultrahigh temperature imaging capabilities they had developed here, so I knew this would be a good place to do my research.”
ALS Doctoral Fellow Mihael Coric knew the ALS would be the right place for him to continue his research on organic photovoltaics, as he had met Beamline 11.0.1 scientists Cheng Wang and Alex Hexemer when they’d come to his university, the Technical University of Munich, for a summer program. Coric’s advisor had known Alex Hexemer for a long time and had been an ALS user as well, so knew the capabilities that would be available to Coric at Beamline 11.0.1.
“With a lot of people working with similar techniques here at the ALS, focusing on soft x-ray scattering, it’s a great place to be,” says Coric. “You meet a lot of people, learn about their science and what they are doing with resonant x-ray scattering, and it’s been really enlightening.”
ALS doctoral fellowships are offered as one-year appointments with the possibility of renewal. Applications for the program are due by June 30 each year for an appointment to coincide with the following academic year. As of this summer, the option of submitting an application for a joint fellowship with the ALS and the Molecular Foundry will be available. For more information about the program and application process, check the ALS Doctoral Fellowship webpage.