By Megan Andrew, Written Communications Assistant
Nanotechnology is a rapidly expanding field that has the potential to change the way we live, work and communicate. With an increasing number of applications and products that utilize nanotechnology, the need for scientists who can develop and test these materials is growing. Nanoindentation/AFM Scientist for EAG Laboratories, Tyler Flanagan, is at the forefront of this field. In an interview, Flanagan shared insight into his work and how he became a nanotechnology scientist.
Flanagan received his PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Connecticut, where he studied under Professor Seok-Woo Lee. Lee was a great inspiration to Flanagan, and provided him with the support he needed to complete his PhD. Lee was “very supportive. PhDs are hard, very time-consuming, and most people want to quit at a certain point. I definitely considered it myself, but he kept me going, and I’m glad he did,” said Flanagan.
Before his enrollment at UConn for his graduate studies, Flanagan majored in physics. However, upon doing research into solid state materials like semiconductors, “it kind of just seemed like a natural transition from what I was doing. I really liked the research I did with dislocations and metals,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan’s expertise in nanoindentation is what led him to his current position at EAG Laboratories. EAG Laboratories is a scientific services company that provides materials testing and analysis for clients in the academic, industry, biomedical, and aerospace sectors. Flanagan runs experiments for clients and works on a wide range of projects, from computer chips to medical devices. He runs AFM and profilometry to obtain surface topographies and mechanical testing. Flanagan said, “I work on basically a new thing every day.” Due to non-disclosure agreements, he cannot discuss specifics, “but you almost definitely have some products that I’ve worked on,” he said.
Flanagan’s time at the University of Connecticut prepared him well for his work at EAG Laboratories. “They initially hired me because of my expertise in nanoindentation, which is what I did during my PhD,” said Flanagan. EAG Laboratories recently built a custom stage in-house for nanoindentation in-situ in an SEM, something that Flanagan explored heavily for his thesis. Flanagan has also found that the writing skills he developed during his PhD have come in handy in his current job, as he reviews reports daily and writes several himself.
Recollecting on the courses he remembers from five years prior, Flanagan noted Professor Rossetti’s crystal structures course as being one of his favorites. He also specified Professor Huey’s characterization course as being particularly helpful “because that gave me an overview of all the things I interact with all the time here. For example, I’m able to look at XRD data, without having run it, and interpret it.”
Flanagan’s advice to current materials science and engineering students is to “look for something that’s in line with the skills you have. I know some people spend a lot of time looking for a job, but really you kind of just target it to what you want to do, or what you are interested in doing.”
As his journey continues, Flanagan said he is hoping to move into a more managerial position. “I don’t mind running tools all day, but ideally I want to move away from the bench at a certain point,” he said.
Flanagan is a scientist who is making significant contributions to the field of nanotechnology. His expertise in nanoindentation and AFM is especially valuable to clients in the industries he serves. As the importance of the field of nanotechnology continues to grow, scientists like Flanagan will play an essential role in developing new materials and technologies that will improve our lives.
Published: May 31, 2023