Vivek Venkatachalam- Constructing a Very Low Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscope by Melis A. '08
Vivek Venkatachalam worked with researchers in the Low Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Lab at MIT's Center for Materials Science to construct a scanning tunneling microscope that operates at very low temperatures and in an ultrahigh vacuum. The microscope will now be used to image the surface of high-temperature superconductors in an attempt to understand how they work.
Researchers in the Low Temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscopy Lab at MIT’s Center for Materials Science have completed constructing a scanning tunneling microscope that operates at very low temperatures and in an ultrahigh vacuum. The microscope will now be used to image the surface of high-temperature superconductors in an attempt to understand how they work. Vivek Venkatachalam, a Senior in Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has worked on this project for two and a half years under the guidance of Dr. Eric Hudson.
Scanning tunneling microscopes image objects that are at the nanoscale and consequently they are very sensitive and must be mounted on vibration-free platforms. Vivek says that his most memorable experience was putting together a very high-powered sound system to test the acoustic properties of their vibration isolation system. During down time, he was able to use this super stereo to listen to music.
Vivek found this UROP by emailing Professor Hudson and expressing his interest in his research. They met and before he knew it, Vivek had a job. Vivek had had a UROP before, when he worked with Prof. Kate Scholberg, now at Duke, doing particle-physics simulations. As part of the project, he had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in a Japanese mining village working on the detector that they were using.
Vivek’s advice to people looking for UROPs is to make sure to look for UROPs that you will enjoy. He says, “Remember that you’re under no obligation to work in any particular group, so if you’re not having a good time, it’s time to look elsewhere.” Outside of the lab, Vivek enjoys playing on the Ultimate Frisbee team and participating in activities through the Society of Physics Students.
(The picture is of a snow crystal, taken in a low-temperature scanning electron microscope. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a8/LT-SEM_snow_crystal_magnification_series-3.jpg