Jennifer Atchison

Ph.D. Alumna

How did you decide to come to Drexel Materials for a Ph.D.?

I wanted to refresh my skills and have more autonomy in the kind of projects I worked on. I had recently been laid off from my position at JDS Uniphase and took the opportunity to go back to school. I choose Drexel Materials because of their excellent research reputation and because I had done my undergraduate at Drexel. I wanted to work with Dr. Schauer because she was doing very interesting work in natural polymers.

First Job Post-Graduation

I am the Laboratory Manager and Sr. Materials Researcher in the Energy Materials Group at the INM Leibniz Institut für Neue Materialien in Saarbrücken Germany. Our group is very new so I spent the first six months setting up the lab. I am currently electrospinning metal alkoxide sol-gel nanofibrous assemblies as precursors for high surface area binderless carbide derived carbon electrodes. These materials show promise for improved power handling capability over traditional porous carbon electrodes. We hope these hierarchical porous materials will also support metal oxide nanoparticles for use in high power density and high energy density storage devices.

How did you find your first job?

I collaborated briefly with Dr. Presser, a visiting researcher, on a project involving electrospinning. When he got the grant money to start his own lab in Germany he invited me to join his team.

What have you been doing since?

Traveling! Working!

How do you feel your Ph.D. research and education have contributed to your job?

Although the material system I work on now has nothing to do with the materials I electrospun for my thesis, I feel working in Dr. Schauer’s lab, being challenged to think for myself, and the strong chemistry background I learned there has given me the foundation and confidence to succeed in any lab.

Do you have any advice for students looking for a Ph.D. program or for current students?

Choose your advisor well. It is the most important decision you will make in graduate school. When you are visiting the campus make sure you look at the publication record of the group you are hoping to join. How many Ph.D. students have they graduated? Most importantly…listen to the students in the lab when they talk about their research and experiences. Most students will not come right out and say they are miserable, but they will give you hints. Also pay attention to what they do not say. Graduate school is not easy, but it does not have to be terrible and, at its best, it can be the most rewarding intellectual journey of your life!  Good luck.

Year of Graduation: 2012

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