MSE Graduate Student Tackles the Future of Energy Innovation

Amir Soleyman

MSE graduate student Amir Soleymani is holding an in-situ liquid cell holder – used in the aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope (Titan Themis) to acquire high-resolution images and videos as the reactions progress inside the cell.

By Katie Nejati, Student Written Communications Assistant

Third-year MSE doctoral student, Amir Soleymani, working alongside members of Assistant Professor Jasna Jankovic’s Research Group, is conducting research at the forefront of energy innovation.

Soleymani began his research career working on ways to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide during the processing of engineering materials. In the course of his studies on this topic, he began to question if his efforts should instead focus on reducing the main source of greenhouse gases—fossil fuels. His subsequent investigations into this challenging problem convinced him to enter the field of renewable energy research.

Soleymani is currently working on the characterization of materials used in clean energy devices, with a focus on polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEMFC). His research seeks to develop structure-property-performance relationships using analytical techniques such as ex-situ and in-situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray computed tomography (XCT), and electron tomography (ET). His main goal is to determine how the structure of a material influences its function in real-world devices. “In materials science it is essential to understand the structure of any material, as it is the bedrock for designing new materials and improving the performance of any device” said Soleymani. Jankovic’s Research Group actively works with both academic researcher and industrial partners to advance clean energy technology. As part of an ongoing collaboration, Soleymani participated in an internship at Ford Motor Company during the summer of 2020. This experience sparked his interest in pursuing a path in the automotive industry. “Fuel cells are the future of energy for stationary power plants and transportation; the heart of the fuel cell is the catalyst layer, and we are looking at the catalyst material to understand its behavior through the structure” he stated.

Soleymani was attracted to the MSE program at UConn because of its state-of-the-art facilities for materials characterization, its diverse connections with industry, and its large network of researcher working in the area of renewable energy. Although opportunities to access exceptional facilities and engage in industrial collaborations were key factors in his decision to join UConn, Soleymani states that the chance to work under the supervision of Professor Jankovic was paramount; “it is important to have a good advisor because they can shape your professional and personal characteristics”. He describes Professor Jankovic in one word as ‘professional’. “She is inspiring and motivates students, making them feel that they are a part of the breakthrough, not just a tool to get to that breakthrough” he adds.

Soleymani anticipates completing his doctoral degree in MSE sometime in 2022. Previously, he earned a BS (2011) and MS (2014) in materials science and engineering at Isfahan University of Technology, and an MS (2018) in mechanical engineering at Tennessee Technological University. Upon completion of his PhD, he hopes to continue his research in clean energy and to land a position in the automotive industry. As he wraps up his dissertation research at UConn, Professor Jankovic states, “Amir was the first student to join my group in 2018. I am so lucky to have him, as he is extremely hard-working, committed and professional in everything that he does. I see a great future for Amir.”

Through his academic work and research activities while at UConn, Soleymani has greatly strengthened his technical, leadership, and collaboration skills, all of which will assist him in his future endeavors. His advice for students considering doctoral work is: “For pursuing a PhD, it is all about curiosity—if you are curious you will be successful. It is a tedious process, if you have perseverance you would finally love what you are doing.”

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