Nanotechnology student heading for PhD in Silicon Valley thanks to undergraduate internship at the NRC


- Edmonton, Alberta

Matthew Maksymowych

Soon‑to‑be University of Alberta graduate Matthew Maksymowych has had his fair share of academic accomplishments, scholarly publications and research experience in the field of nanotechnology, and then he had a big decision to make. As his undergraduate degree comes to an end, he has received graduate school offers from a number of prestigious universities: Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the California Institute of Technology.

Before getting to this point in his academic career, Matthew started as a student for the NRC's Nanotechnology Research Centre during the summer of 2018, working under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Hiebert, Senior Research Officer. Together, they researched the physics of mechanical and optical nanodevices on a silicon chip, with the goal of developing an ultra‑precise molecule detector. Encouraged by the Detection and Automation team's support in the pursuit of new ideas, the responsibilities he was given, and the freedom he was gifted with, Matthew was continuously motivated to work harder and move the project forward.

Since then, he has been working at the NRC on and off between semesters, returning to publish his work in the Applied Physics Letters journal article Optomechanical spring enhanced mass sensing and support his research team. He also wrote an Optics Express article on high dynamic range optomechanical circuits. Matthew is currently continuing his research with Dr. Hiebert for his undergrad honours project, which is centered on enhancing the mass sensitivity of an optomechanical system using the optical stiffness effect.

"My persistence eventually led to positive outcomes in the form of publications, which were key in establishing my competitiveness in the graduate application pool," explained Matthew. "I am convinced that I probably would not have achieved such success without Wayne's guidance, kindness and scientific insights."

As he continues to pursue his graduate studies, as well as his career, in nanotechnology research, Matthew's time at the Nanotechnology Research Centre has offered an excellent work environment for him to fine‑tune his natural talent and abilities. Between access to a state‑of‑the‑art research facility, a strong relationship with a mentor that took a personal interest in helping Matthew grow, and exposure to the centre's research excellence and leadership culture, the research centre is unparalleled as a breeding ground for budding scientists—as evidenced by its 2020 UBC Science Co‑op Employer Recognition Award.

These capabilities are part of what makes the NRC a fantastic workplace to develop and train the next generation of young scientists.

Matthew has decided to pursue his PhD at Stanford University in Silicon Valley because of its international leadership in nanotechnology and quantum systems research. He shares, "I believe that Stanford's environment will optimally enable me to build on my research successes with the Nanotechnology Research Centre."

His supervisor Dr. Hiebert shares that "Matthew is one of the finest undergraduate researchers I have ever met, and I am elated that he will have the chance to prove his worth at one of the world's top grad schools. There is no doubt in my mind that his unquenchable curiosity, combined with his passionate earnestness for conducting research, will ensure him many future successes. Best of luck, Matthew!"

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