Three graduate students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences received awards at Penn State’s 31st annual Graduate Exhibition, which was held on the University Park campus on March 18 and 20, 2016. John Leeman, geosciences Ph.D. candidate, received a first place award in the Physical Sciences & Mathematics category; Amin Azizi, Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering, placed first in the Video category; and Nicholas Holschuh, geosciences Ph.D. candidate, tied for third in the Physical Sciences & Mathematics category.
Leeman’s research aims to improve our understanding of the physics of slow earthquakes, a phenomenon that was discovered within the past two decades. These earthquakes release energy stored in the Earth’s crust over a long duration, sometimes up to several months. Researchers still do not understand why they occur or what keeps them from becoming regular and potentially destructive earthquakes. Even though these earthquakes are not typically hazardous, they could influence the timing of a regular earthquake. By investigating the cause of slow earthquakes, Leeman hopes to improve understanding of seismic risks to help plan and prepare for dangerous events. His faculty advisers are Chris Marone and Demian Saffer, both professors of geosciences.
“I’m very grateful to have been selected to receive this award, especially among so many excellent researchers and presenters,” said Leeman. “Being able to convey our research and how it is stepping us toward important and societally beneficial goals is something that is very important to all of us. Events like this really encourage development of that skill.”
Azizi investigates the synthesis, characterization and application of two-dimensional (2D) crystals. At only one atom thick, they are the thinnest known materials and they enable the fabrication of flexible and transparent devices. Azizi aims to understand structure-property relationships in these materials at the atomic level using state-of-the-art electron microscopes at Penn State. In addition, he uses 2D materials in energy storage devices to enhance their performance at high temperatures. His goal is to impact next-generation technologies such as nanoelectronics and sustainable energy generation and storage devices. His faculty adviser is Nasim Alem, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.
“I would like to sincerely thank the Graduate School for this recognition,” said Azizi. “I am honored to be a recipient of this award and it encourages me to do more in the future.”