COSAM News Articles 2021 May NSF CAREER Award helps physics professor continue cutting-edge research on thin films

NSF CAREER Award helps physics professor continue cutting-edge research on thin films

Published: 05/04/2021

By: Maria Gebhardt

In addition to being part of an electronic and energy research cluster that has brought the best X-ray diffraction instrumentation to the state of Alabama and winning the U.S. Air Force Young Investigator Award, Ryan Comes, Thomas and Jean Walter Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics, is now a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award recipient.

Comes was selected for the prestigious award for “Interfaces and Superlattices Grown by Hybrid Molecular Beam Epitaxy” with funding for five years totaling $651,110.

“This NSF CAREER Award gives our research group the opportunity to develop cutting-edge advancements that will help Auburn’s Department of Physics to excel in emerging thin-films material research,” Comes said.

In his Films, Interfaces, and Nanostructures of Oxides Lab, he and his team grow single crystal thin films, which are materials synthesized with atomic precision and created in a controlled vacuum environment for his experiments in the Leach Science Center. Comes and his research group use hybrid molecular beam epitaxy to grow new materials as films and combines them together to produce multilayers called superlattices. The project funded by this CAREER grant will focus on developing superlattices made up of alternating layers of materials that are only a few atoms thick. These designer materials are expected to have unique properties that have potential applications for future quantum computation technologies.

Earlier this year, Comes was part of a $280,487 grant that brought a Rigaku SmartLab, the best X-ray Diffraction instrumentation to the entire state through the NSF. In 2019, he was the first person at Auburn University to receive the U.S. Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program Award.

As part of the outreach component of the award, Comes will offer demonstrations before home football games to increase the awareness of the role of physics research in everyday life and on the football field. He will also share his research with the Alabama Prison Arts Education Program through summer courses at regional facilities. Through outreach, he will be able to highlight how the field of physics can make an impact in anyone’s life.

“Earning a NSF CAREER Award gives me the ability to take my research to the next level,” Comes added. “I am excited to make an impact in this field and continue to make a difference to the next generation of scientists.”


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