Student Spotlight: Aileen Luo

Aileen Luo

August 21, 2023

Aileen Luo is a doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering from Sunnyvale, California. She earned her B.S. in materials science and engineering from UC Berkeley and now characterizes the nanoscale structure of materials under the guidance of Andrej Singer at Cornell.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

I use x-rays to characterize the nanoscale structure of materials under various environmental conditions. Many useful materials have periodic crystalline structures that can be probed by x-rays and directly affect their function and operation. Modern synchrotron x-ray sources combine tunable high photon flux with coherence that enables nanometer length focused beams, which are useful for understanding material properties through atomic scale structure, selectivity of chemical elements, and distribution across a sample.

What are the larger implications of this research?

I study functional oxide materials; specifically, materials for energy storage and conversion and microelectronics. In a world where we rely heavily on energy to power our homes, vehicles, and electronic devices, we must search for new materials that can meet our increasing needs for energy consumption. Part of this challenge is in developing a better understanding of fundamental properties and operating limitations of materials, which is why it is crucial to study materials structures dynamically, as they undergo changes through interacting with environmental or operating conditions.

What does it mean to you to have been selected for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program?

Of course it is a great honor and opportunity to be able to participate in the SCGSR Program. I hope to meet new peers who are also interested in x-rays and energy materials. I am also looking forward to working closely with new collaborators at Argonne National Laboratory and learning about the unique resources and facilities there.

What will this opportunity allow you to do that you might not have otherwise?

This opportunity allows me to combine my interests in x-ray science to characterize materials with machine learning techniques. My host at Argonne, Dr. Mathew Cherukara, leads the computational science group and has extensive expertise in machine learning for autonomous experiments and real-time analysis of complex x-ray scattering data. Furthermore, the upgrade to the Advanced Photon Source, the synchrotron at Argonne, and the computing facilities offers a unique opportunity for me to develop relevant skills to my field of research and explore career paths in academia.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

In my free time, I enjoy going for walks on the nearby trails and state parks, cooking, and entertaining my cat.

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

In addition to the high academic standard at Cornell, what really sold me on the field of materials science and engineering here was the graduate student community. When I visited, the students were not only incredibly welcoming to prospective students, they were clearly also a very close-knit group. Now that I’ve been at Cornell for four years, I am even more sure that it was the right decision and I know I can always count on my friends here for support.