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Dalton Chaffee, Electrical Engineering

2015 NIST SURF at Boulder, Electromagnetics Division

Why did you apply for the NIST SURF program?

I was initially informed of the NIST SURF program by Purdue after my participation in the SURF program at Purdue the preceding summer. After reviewing the potential projects at NIST (both Gaithersburg and Boulder), I found that many of them fit my own research interests.

What was your research project, and what did you accomplish during the summer? 

My research project involved designing and experiment to measure the spin transport properties of graphene. I designed the experiment and also spent some time running ferromagnetic resonance measurements to characterize the magnetic properties of certain materials.

What did you enjoy most about the experience?

While the research was quite exciting, perhaps the best part was getting to know the 22 other NIST SURF students at the Boulder site. They all came from different backgrounds but still shared similar interests with me; besides, there are no shortage of things to do in the Boulder area.

What was the lab environment like?

Everyone in my lab was quite relaxed and very friendly.  While I mostly worked with my mentor and a postdoc, I often had the need to talk to other members of the division for help, and they were always happy to provide it.

What was the peer network and interactions with other participants?

As I mentioned earlier, hanging out with the other SURF interns was great, and I would consider myself good friends with many of them.

What kinds of tours and other professional activities did you participate in during the program?

The program offered plenty of opportunities to attend seminars, lab tours, etc. Most or all of these were optional, but I attended most of them because they sounded interesting, and most of them were. We also toured the NOAA facilities, which are right next to the NIST facilities at Boulder.

Describe the social and living environment.

I lived in the same apartment complex as most of the other interns, and I shared an apartment with 3 of them. I became good friends with almost all of these people and spent much of my time after work and during weekends with my roommates and the other interns.

How has the NIST SURF experience contributed to your professional growth and career goals?

Working at NIST exposed me to research in a national laboratory setting, which is a position that I can definitely see myself filling one day. It both taught me how to be a better researcher and helped in the process of deciding what I want to do when I graduate.

Who would you encourage to apply for the 2016 NIST program?

Anyone considering a research career in engineering or science should take a look at the different laboratories and projects at the two NIST sites and apply if he/she sees an interesting position.