UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Roger Walker, doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering, was recently named a Sloan Scholar, and said the funding will allow him to expand his research and networking opportunities in the field.
The Sloan Scholars program, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, provides funding for underrepresented students to pursue doctorates in mathematics, science and engineering.
“I plan to use the Sloan funding primarily to attend conferences on dielectrics, particularly international ones that would normally be out of my reach financially,” Walker said. “Going to these conferences will allow me to connect with experts on dielectric materials from across the world, considerably expanding my network and the opportunities open to me after graduation.”
After graduation, Walker’s goal is to work in a national research lab.
Walker’s master’s degree research focused on ways that layered nanomaterials can be used in high-radiation environments such as space. Now, he’s studying the dielectric properties of polyethylene films intended for high voltage cable insulation such as those used to power electrical grids.
“I think every area of materials science has something interesting in it,” Walker said. “I chose my master’s work because of its relation to developing space applications and my doctoral work because of its implications for energy distribution. I feel very grateful that my home college, the graduate school and the Sloan Foundation are willing to support my endeavors.”
Walker said Penn State’s research facilities, such as the shared facilities in the Millennium Science Complex, have been a great benefit to his research.
He chose Penn State for his master’s degree, and stayed on to pursue his doctorate, because of the research opportunities. He credits his adviser Michael Lanagan, professor of engineering science and mechanics, associate director of the Materials Research Institute and associate director of the Center for Dielectric Studies, for giving him both the guidance and the freedom to learn through his research.
In 2013, Penn State was one of three flagship universities selected by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the University Center of Exemplary Mentoring initiative, which builds on Penn State’s Bunton-Waller assistantship program. Since then, the initiative has expanded and now supports eight universities.