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Awarding of the First Fisk-Vanderbilt IGERT Ph.D.


The Vanderbilt-Fisk IGERT achieved a significant milestone in the last year with the awarding of a PhD to Dr. Stephen Babalola, the first Fisk-Vanderbilt NSF-IGERT associated student to achieve this distinction. Babalola was also associated with the broader Vanderbilt-Fisk Bridge program, which provides a conduit from Fisk to Vanderbilt in a number of different fields. This success is described in a Vanderbilt web page:

In 2003 the National Science Foundation awarded an IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) grant to fund a graduate training program bringing Fisk master’s students to Vanderbilt for Ph.D.s with a specific focus on materials science. Babalola’s thesis was precisely aligned with the theme and goals of the IGERT. His thesis was jointly supervised by Prof. Arnold Burger (Fisk) an expert in the specific research topic and Prof. Leonard Feldman (Vanderbilt) who provided mentoring during the entire PhD training experience. The research was also significantly enhanced by an extended internship with the group of Dr. Ralph James, Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Babalola’s thesis topic was an excellent example of sophisticated materials science applied to a problem of national need, namely the research and development of a new class of radiation detectors capable of room temperature operation with optimum resolution and efficiency. Specifically, his dissertation reports the study of defects in Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CZT) and Cadmium Manganese Telluride (CMT) nuclear detectors. The thesis focused on the defects associated with surface processing of detectors as well as the extended defects present in the crystals. The research techniques employed synchrotron radiation, Infrared microscopy, Atomic Force Microscope and the Pockels electro-optic effect to observe defect induced non-uniformities of the internal electric. CdMnTe detectors are expected to have improved properties over CZT but materials quality has been difficult to achieve. In his thesis Babalola reports the first response of a CMT detector to high energy gamma.

Address Goals

The entire PhD training experience was an ideal realization of the goals of this IGERT. The first step involved Masters level research at Fisk and the familiarization of the concepts and goals of modern materials science. An important aspect of this Fisk period was the coupling to Vanderbilt, thus smoothing the way for the Fisk-Vanderbilt transition. The second level was incorporation into the Integrated Graduate Program in Materials Science (IGPMS), a Vanderbilt graduate level program affiliated with the School of Engineering and association with the IGERT, the main educational vehicle for IGPMS . As Stephen has mentioned the entire Vanderbilt-Fisk community, both the IGERT and the BRIDGE, provided encouragement and valuable mentoring in this difficult transition period. The third level was the actual identification of a research topic and the undertaking of the thesis research. In this phase Stephen was guided by both Fisk and Vanderbilt faculty. In addition, Prof. Burger identified the opportunity for an extended research experience at Brookhaven National Labs, a well-equipped facility active within the materials/radiation detection community. Thus this connection provided a useful research experience at a national laboratory, an example of the internship experience that is central to the IGERT experience.

The high quality research and the variety of institutions and laboratories, as well as the Fisk-Vanderbilt link represents a most satisfying highlight for the IGERT and a fine example of the successful development of a new PhD.