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Doctoral student takes unique path to Nanotechnology for Defense honor

Travis Tumlin poses in front of Overholser Atrium.

“I wasn’t planning on coming to MU for my Ph.D.,” 2013 MU graduate Travis Tumlin said. But that was before he began talking and e-mailing with Assistant Professor Jian Lin and talking to other graduate students who were working with him.

In November, Travis Tumlin, a 2013 MU mechanical engineering graduate — who now is working on his doctorate in his home department under MU Assistant Professor Jian Lin — took second place in the student oral presentation competition at the 13th annual Nanotechnology for Defense (NT4D) conference held in California.

Tumlin originally submitted what he thought would be a poster presentation for “Controlling Graphene Growth via Substrate Engineering,” but was instead invited to present his research orally.

Single crystal graphene domains grown on copper foil.

Shown here are single crystal graphene domains grown on copper foil. Photo courtesy of Travis Tumlin.

“They were very interested in my work,” Tumlin said. “I got a lot of feedback and ideas from people at the conference.”

Tumlin cut his research teeth as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of Professor Shubhra Gangopadhyay in MU’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

“I worked with Dr. Gangopadhyay for three years. She instilled the principles of doing research and prepared me for the future,” he said. “I’m really grateful for the experience.”

As an undergraduate, Tumlin did a couple of internships at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL), and after receiving his bachelor’s degree, he returned to ARL as a research contractor working in composites and hybrid materials, specifically with single-atom-width 2-D materials.

“We were looking at ways to control growth dynamics and nucleation in order to tailor their electrical and mechanical properties,” he said, adding that his work there resulted in several papers, which currently are in review for publication.

Shown here are single crystal graphene domains grown on copper foil, then transferred onto silicon dioxide.

Shown here are single crystal graphene domains grown on copper foil, then transferred onto silicon dioxide. Photo courtesy of Travis Tumlin.

Tumlin explained that these sorts of materials are full of potential for future applications, explaining that, for example, the U.S. Army might use them for something like advanced body armor. The work he is doing in Lin’s lab focuses more on materials’ increased electrical properties and its potential energy storage capabilities.

“I wasn’t planning on coming to MU for my Ph.D.,” Tumlin said. But that was before he began talking and e-mailing with Lin and talking to other graduate students who were working with him.

“At ARL, there is an open campus that brings in researchers from around the country to make presentations, and they brought in Dr. Lin,” Tumlin said. He found that Lin’s research was a good fit for his both his interests and his preference to conduct “fundamental basic science research.”

“Dr. Lin has been really great,” he added.

Tumlin said his future plans definitely include working in a lab, though he’s leaning toward industry rather than academia.

“Going back to school was a tough decision but the payoff in the end will be worth it.”