Graduate Student Profiles
The graduate cohort at Western Science is a mosiac of students with diverse interests, areas of expertise, and career aspirations. Their common characteristics include the drive to explore, the need to innovate, and the will to develop pinpoint expertise which could lead to the next eureka moment. Discover some of the interesting personaliities, past times, and pusuits of the next generation of science leaders.
“If we collect all the sunlight that hits the Earth in just one hour, we would have enough energy to power the whole world for year.” This is the passion that drives the soon-to- be PhD, Amy Tapley, to try and find a new, more marketable solar cell for the energy industry. By using low temperature and low cost solvents, Tapley is creating nano-crystals materials for solar cells that are cleaner, non-toxic, and more affordable.
“Though there are a variety of different solar cells and silicon is most commonly used, they need a lot of material and it is very difficult to get the silicon to the purity that you need for it to work efficiently.” As an alternative, Tapley is working with a thin-filmed inorganic, which uses significantly less material than normal silicon-based solar cells.
Tapley spends most of her time working at state-of-the-art facilities, like Western’s Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre and Surface Science Western to examine the surface of materials and their properties to ensure the identification of an effective photochemical. Success here will mean effectively lowering the cost of producing solar cells. Equally important, this work is poised to develop an environmentally friendly material transformation process, in keeping with Western’s sustainability efforts. Most importantly, realization and the eventual commercialization of this solution may lead to a game-changing approach to energy production in Canada.
Motivated by her supervisor’s dream to see solar cells on car and home as an alternative source of energy so that our environment can remain sustainable, Tapley is also concerned with scalability. Solar cells can range from the centimeter scale in calculators to the rooftops of houses and to Tapley making these materials work at all scales is one of the one ways to ensure that we move closer to a greener, renewable future.
Defending August, she is hoping to move on to a successful career in industry where she can apply the analytical skills she’s learnt during her time at Western Science.
Patrick Hill, a PhD student with the Centre for Planetary and Space Exploration, conducts unique investigations of Earth’s Moon.
His primary focus is the examination of the Moon’s terrestrial origin as suggested by a catastrophic collision early in the Earth’s history, that led to the formation of the Moon. By studying this event through the investigation of lunar material, Hill provides a means by which we can gain insight into the history of the early Solar System.
This examination is conducted by using the fluorination line at the Laboratory of Stable Isotope Science (LSIS) to analyze the stable isotopes of silicon and oxygen in Apollo samples and lunar meteorites. By using these isotopes, Patrick has a set of geochemical tools that he can use to examine the origin of the Moon and it’s early evolution. The fluorination line utilized in this study is unique in Canada as it allows the analysis of the two isotope systems from the same sample. LSIS is the only laboratory conducting this kind of research on pristine extraterrestrial materials creating a truly unique dataset.
Patrick has won several research grants during his time at Western Science including the Ontario Graduate Student Award, NSERC Master's and NSERC PhD CGS award. His research has taken him to conferences in Houston, Texas and Berlin, Germany as well as throughout Canada. While he loves studying the Moon, Patrick's undergraduate work in diamond exploration was published in the Journal for Mineralogy and Petrology. Every year since joining Western Science, he has volunteered for the CPSX Outreach program and has participated in several of the outreach activities Western Science offers.