Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Silvija Gradečak seeks to better the world through new materials

Silvija Gradečak
photo: M. Scott Brauer
Silvija Gradečak

photo: M. Scott Brauer

Abstract:
When Silvija Gradečak was born, her hometown of Vukovar, now in Croatia, was still part of Yugoslavia. Both of her parents worked in a shoe factory, but her father, a chemical engineer, may have set the stage for her future career: "He always had a lot of chemicals and materials around the house, and from early on I started to play with these things," recalls Gradečak, now an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT.

Silvija Gradečak seeks to better the world through new materials

Cambridge, MA | Posted on December 6th, 2013

Playing with materials, in a way, has become her life's work: Gradečak now studies materials that could help to improve energy harvesting and conversion, or processes that could improve the properties of materials used in various industrial and high-tech applications.

Her parents always put a strong emphasis on education and a strong work ethic, Gradečak says. "They really were role models," she says, and she learned early "that hard work and effort really pays off."

But her life took a sharp turn when the situation in her homeland began to change after the collapse of Yugoslavia. "I had a very nice childhood," Gradečak says, "until war broke out in 1991, in my second year of high school. My parents had to move, and they basically lost everything that they had built, and they had to start from scratch."

The lessons of those events made a deep impression, she says. Gradečak was starkly confronted with the fact that "there are many things that happen in life that you can't control. But the things you can control are your own actions. I thought about the fact that I wanted to make this world better for my family, and for the world in general."

"The best way I could think of to do that was to excel in what I'm doing," she adds. "I was passionate about science, and about engineering. I thought if I want to have an influence in the world, I have to be very good at what I'm doing."

Gradečak's interest in science was stimulated by her experience attending an astronomy summer school during her high-school years. "We were exposed to scientific methodology and creative ways you can ask relevant scientific questions, design science experiments, and interpret the results. That was really the starting point for me," she recalls.

Later, as an undergraduate at the University of Zagreb, Gradečak continued to pursue her interest in astronomy. Together with classmates, she organized an expedition — raising funds and designing and building equipment — to observe the annual Leonid meteor shower from a vantage point in Mongolia, where the shower was expected to produce its strongest outburst in decades. Sure enough, the display was "really incredible, you could see meteors almost every second," she says. The expedition was designed to study the sounds generated by the meteors; Gradečak's results ended up being published in a scientific journal.

That reinforced her interest in physics and astronomy, Gradečak says, but "one thing that was missing for me in astronomy was the component of experiments. … I really liked it, but I always felt like an observer." After all, one of the things that had drawn her to science in the first place was that "you can set up a hypothesis, design an experiment, and eventually prove or disprove it and move forward."

That interest in hands-on experimental science propelled her toward condensed matter physics, she says. "There, I really felt I could play with materials," she says. "I could work with something I designed on my own, and with the discoveries I make I can modify the materials with completely new properties."

Gradečak went on to earn her doctorate at EPFL in Switzerland, along with her boyfriend — now her husband — Slaven Garaj, who she had met at the astronomy summer school. While at EPFL, she traded telescopes for electron microscopes: "Instead of far away, I was looking at the nanoscale," she says. She began studying gallium nitride, a promising semiconductor that was just starting to be used in devices such as light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, and high-frequency transistors. Her thesis described how defects affect the material's properties — in some cases, actually making it more efficient.

Gallium nitride, and the techniques used to study it, have continued to be central to Gradečak's career, she says.

She was offered a postdoctoral fellowship by the Swiss government that allowed her to pursue her work anywhere in the world. She chose to go to Harvard University, where she worked on nanostructured materials. There, she found herself at the cutting edge of new discoveries about how gallium nitride's properties could be tailored by changing the size and shape of the material — such as by shaping it into nanowires.

"It really opened up an entire new field of research for me," Gradečak says. In 2006, she joined MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering, earning tenure this year.

These days, Gradečak's focus is on tailoring "nanomaterials on demand," with precisely tuned properties to match the needs of specific applications, such as energy production, energy storage, or LED displays. "We have the tools that enable us to really look into the materials and test their properties in situ," she says, such as electron microscopy and cathodoluminescence, which makes it possible to study materials down to the arrangement of atoms within them.

Using such techniques, Gradečak continues her pursuit of the ultimate goal that led her into science and technology in the first place: how to make the world a better place. Now, her focus is on making better materials that can help to solve problems by, for example, generating electricity more economically, or using it more efficiently. "It's something I'm really passionate about," she says.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Building a smart cardiac patch: 'Bionic' cardiac patch could one day monitor and respond to cardiac problems June 28th, 2016

New, better way to build circuits for world's first useful quantum computers June 28th, 2016

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Superheroes are real: Ultrasensitive nonlinear metamaterials for data transfer June 25th, 2016

Imaging

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Ultrathin, flat lens resolves chirality and color: Multifunctional lens could replace bulky, expensive machines June 25th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

Soft decoupling of organic molecules on metal June 23rd, 2016

Display technology/LEDs/SS Lighting/OLEDs

GraphExeter illuminates bright new future for flexible lighting devices June 23rd, 2016

New nanomaterial offers promise in bendable, wearable electronic devices: Electroplated polymer makes transparent, highly conductive, ultrathin film June 13th, 2016

Graphene-based transparent electrodes for highly efficient flexible OLEDS: A Korean research team developed an ideal electrode structure composed of graphene and layers of titanium dioxide and conducting polymers, resulting in highly flexible and efficient OLEDs June 5th, 2016

Discoveries

Building a smart cardiac patch: 'Bionic' cardiac patch could one day monitor and respond to cardiac problems June 28th, 2016

New, better way to build circuits for world's first useful quantum computers June 28th, 2016

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

Superheroes are real: Ultrasensitive nonlinear metamaterials for data transfer June 25th, 2016

Announcements

Building a smart cardiac patch: 'Bionic' cardiac patch could one day monitor and respond to cardiac problems June 28th, 2016

New, better way to build circuits for world's first useful quantum computers June 28th, 2016

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Building a smart cardiac patch: 'Bionic' cardiac patch could one day monitor and respond to cardiac problems June 28th, 2016

New, better way to build circuits for world's first useful quantum computers June 28th, 2016

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Tools

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Ultrathin, flat lens resolves chirality and color: Multifunctional lens could replace bulky, expensive machines June 25th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

Energy

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

FEI and University of Liverpool Announce QEMSCAN Research Initiative: University of Liverpool will utilize FEI’s QEMSCAN technology to gain a better insight into oil and gas reserves & potentially change the approach to evaluating them June 22nd, 2016

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

Yale researchers’ technology turns wasted heat into power June 27th, 2016

Stanford researchers find new ways to make clean hydrogen and rechargable zinc batteries June 18th, 2016

Efficient hydrogen production made easy: Sticking electrons to a semiconductor with hydrazine creates an electrocatalyst June 17th, 2016

A New Approach To Building Efficient Thermoelectric Nanomaterials June 17th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic