Saturday, April 12, 2014

An interview with Dr. Suman Neupane

Congratulations to Dr. Suman Neupane (Scholar page) for successfully defending his PhD thesis from Physics Department (Florida International University). He is also the recipient of the best dissertation award (more here!). We gladly present an interview with him.

1.     Please tell us about yourself. (Nepal School, Masters experience and travel to PhD institutions. Did you teach? Also any links, personal websites, and a photo etc.)
I come from a middle class family of Chapagaon which lies in the outskirt of Kathmandu valley. After finishing high school from Lalitpur Madhyamik Vidyalaya, I joined Amrit Science College with the aim of studying physics to prepare for a teaching career at higher education. I finished Bachelors in science from Tri-Chandra college and Masters’ in Physics from the Central Department of Physics In Tribhuvan University. During the transitional periods from one level to another, I taught in different schools for a total time of about 30 months.  After my Masters degree, I taught physics for three years in Kathmandu and joined Florida International University in January 2008.

2.       Could you please describe your PhD research in plain English?
During my PhD, I was involved in the experimental study of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and related materials. A graphene (Nobel prize, 2010) layer consists of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal arrays. A CNT can be visualized a multiple layer of graphene rolled into a tubular structure. As the name suggests, the diameter of CNTs can be as little as few nanometers (one-billionth of a meter) while the length could run to several hundred micrometers.  Due to their special structure, CNTs have strength greater than of steel and are several times lighter than aluminum. CNTs have potential in application of being used as electron source for displays, electrode in lithium ion battery, agent for drug delivery, composite materials for high-strength materials, etc. During my PhD, I was primarily focused in enhancing the electron emission properties of CNT arrays, studying the structural evolution of carbon nanotubes during lithiation and delithiation cycles in lithium ion batteries. I was also involved in the research of materials like ruthenium dioxide, titanium dioxide for energy storage applications.

3.       What are the social applications of your research/ short-term or long-term impact of your research to the society?
Carbon nanotube has potential for applications in various fields: Carbon nanotubes have been added to strengthen materials for sports equipment, body armor, vehicles, rockets, and building materials.  CNTs also find applications in solar cells for renewable source of energy. Using carbon nanotubes as the electrodes in lithium ion battery, capacitors provides more current and better electrical and mechanical stability than other leading materials. Carbon nanotube based devices can be used in efficient displays. In the long term, CNTs can are also expected to play a major role in biomedical applications.

4.       How was your graduate school experience?
My graduate school was a big learning experience. Coming from a background with a very little experimental skills, it takes a lot of time and effort to learn several skills for survival. Closely following post-docs and senior graudate students will help to get through ups and down of graduate school. One needs overall transformation, dexterity, reading and writing skills, computational skills  all needed to be acquired.

5.       Please share few useful tips that you wish you were told when you applied for PhD.
A student coming to graduate school should be prepared to around 5 years of hardship. It would take at 10 year for  a person to get a real job and settle down. So, the message to convey to a enthusiast is that THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING. While choosing the school, choose the school which has research going in right direction. Go to
(i) Google scholar and check where the professors are publishing recently.
(ii) Check the funding history of the professors
(iii) Check where the recent graduates are??
(iv) Check the RATE MY PROFESSOR, this might give a little idea about the attitude of the professor.

6.       Where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What are your hobbies, and spare time activities?
I have recently joined as a post doctoral associate continuing the research. It will be another challenging 5 years. Joining a research institute will be an ideal case scenario.
For the hobbies, I prefer playing and watching sports, traveling, watching games, following news from around the world.