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Curtis Correll '15

Curtis Correll is a German and Economics double major from Memphis, TN. He used his Johnson Opportunity Grant to supplement his summer research by observing original research by scientists at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany.

This summer, the Johnson Opportunity Grant has turned what would have been a positive experience into an invaluable one.  Heading into this summer, I had almost no experience or knowledge about the topic I was researching with the R.E. Lee Summer Research Program.  Professor Youngman gave me interesting readings, ranging from background information to build my understanding of nanotechnology, to more specific information with a focus on nanoimagery.  It was an immense reading load, and I gained a lot of theoretical knowledge from the books on nanoimagery and nanotechnology. However, I still lacked practical experience, and there were significant holes in my understanding of the topic, so I began to feel overwhelmed. 

The Johnson Opportunity Grant gave me a chance to gain the practical experience I needed to better understand my field of study.  My practical understanding of the subject was able to catch up to the theoretical knowledge I had gained over a quick period of dense readings.  The grant allowed me to join Professor Youngman in Karlsruhe, Germany at the Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.  Professor Youngman introduced me to multiple prominent German scientists in the nanotechnology field.  His partner on his upcoming book, Professor Ljiljana Fruk, spoke with me about her specific areas of research, and set me up to observe work that her PhD. candidates and post-docs were working on.  I had the opportunity to not only learn what they were working on, but also watch how they worked on it.  Getting a sense of the shoptalk scientists use in a lab, as well as how the machinery and processes work in the realm of nanotechnology, provided me with a level of familiarity and more personal experience for my research. 

The Johnson Grant gave me a unique and fascinating window into the everyday lab work of nanoscientists. This allowed me to combine my non-science background with a strong grasp of what they do to produce a more focused and interdisciplinary paper that is understandable to those without a background in nanoscience, but is not too "soft" for scientists to value.  Because of the Johnson grant, I was able to turn what could have been a very one-dimensional project into a more multi-faceted and well-informed undertaking that drew not purely from bibliographic research, but also from personal experience and observations in a nanotechnology lab.