uc davis materials science engineering undergraduate griffin hart
Photo courtesy of Griffin Hart.

Student Spotlight: Griffin Hart

Recent materials science and engineering graduate Griffin Hart ’21 used UC Davis to try college a second time and was able to make the most of his experience.

Hart started college at Humboldt State University, but didn’t know what he wanted to do. This made him feel unmotivated and that was reflected in his grades, so he moved home and enrolled in community college. He became interested in sustainability and through his calculus, physics and chemistry classes, he began to see how much he could do with math and science.

“Once you start getting more of the nitty gritty math and realize the real-world applications of it, it started to become more inspiring, like, ‘oh, this is actually cool to be able to solve all this stuff,’” he said.

He became interested in materials science after he told his chemistry professor how much he liked learning about metals and ceramics.

“Learning about all the properties of materials, what you can do with them and how you can apply them is something that interests me,” he said. “I think that’s where it initially started that I wanted to do materials science and engineering.” 

Hart found that transferring to UC Davis to continue was a natural decision. Several of his professors had gone to UC Davis and had shared their experiences, it was close to his family and it was one of the few programs in the region that offered a materials science degree.

So, he transferred in fall 2019. The clarity about what he wanted to study gave him to motivation and perseverance he didn’t have the first time he tried college, and the classmates he met helped him stay on track and he started to excel. He also became interested in undergraduate research thanks to his classmates.

“I thought it was something that would be really cool to [do] to sort of get an idea of what industry could be like or what doing a master’s or Ph.D. would be like,” he said.

Hart followed his interest in sustainable energy materials and joined assistant professor Seung Sae Hong’s lab in winter 2020. When the pandemic hit, he stayed on and attended the group’s regular Zoom meetings, where he and his fellow researchers studied academic papers together. He was excited to finally come back to campus and perform hands-on research in the lab in spring 2021.

“It was definitely a long process to get to that point, so it made it more exciting to be back in person,” he said. “Even if I wasn’t there as much as I would have been with full-time classes, I’m really got a unique experience that I might not be able to get again once I leave school.”

Hart conducted experiments with Molybdenum disulfide (MoS₂), a material that could potentially be used for next-generation fuel cells, hydrogen fuel generation and CO2 capturing. Specifically, he worked to deposit layers of MoS₂ onto silicon substrates in furnaces at low pressures and temperatures around 700-900 degrees Celsius. He would then analyze the samples to characterize their properties.

After completing his degree, Hart’s research with substrates and thin film materials in the lab helped him land a job as a diffusion/epitaxy process engineer for a semiconductor company in Oregon. He’s excited for this next chapter of his life and career and though his undergraduate experience was impacted by the pandemic, he’s still thankful for everything he learned and the experiences he had at UC Davis.

“I’m trying not to be too hard about it,” he said. “We still got to learn from a lot of good professors, even though it’s over Zoom, it was still a good experience.”

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