Interview for DiscoverPhDs

What’s been the most challenging part of the Ph.D.?

I think the most challenging part of the program has to be learning to embrace the constant failures. Breaking the boundaries of knowledge and generating new findings goes hand in hand with failure. I think when you do a Ph.D., you spend more time finding out what doesn’t work vs. the very few things that do. The trick is to realize that regardless of failure or success, you have generated new knowledge that can aid in the development of future solutions. Persistence is key!

I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview for DiscoverPhDs and sharing my experiences about the Ph.D. journey. This is a great resource for prospective Ph.D. students and I highly recommend checking it out. A big thank you to Harry for the opportunity.

You can check out my full interview at:

Publication: Spectrally Stable Blue LED

One of my favorite parts of academia is the chance to work in a team with many bright individuals and bring about innovative solutions to challenges. The icing on the cake is sharing these solutions with the world.

In our latest collaboration with the Sargent group (just published in Nature communications), we were able to provide computational insights in using small molecules such as the neurotransmitter, GABA, to control the growth of perovskite crystals. The resultant quantum wells were used to develop a highly efficient and stable perovskite-based blue LED! This strategy was found to be widely applicable, with other small chelating molecules also leading to similar performance.

The paper is available free of charge at: Nature Communications.

Manganese Catalyst for Water Splitting

Hydrogen gas is a popular green fuel which produces water upon burning. What’s even better is that hydrogen can be made sustainably from water in a process called water electrolysis. Unfortunately, the efficiency process is currently limited, such that large amounts of electricity are required. To resolve this limitation many different catalysts have been prepared. However, current catalysts typically rely on expensive metals that are not sustainable in the long run. In this publication, we aim to get around this issue by employing manganese as an economical alternative.

To see the performance of our catalyst, read more here.

Kamal gave a poster presentation at the fall MRS 2019

The immense contribution of carbon dioxide (CO2) to climate change has made CO2 capture a global priority. Current materials for CO2 capture require large energy input for regeneration and are thus not truly environment friendly. Photo-responsive metal organic frameworks (MOFs) have been investigated as a viable solution. The materials reported to date, exhibit poor CO2 selectivity & uptake. To resolve this, I am developing novel CO2 selective photoresponsive MOFs capable of high CO2 uptake coupled with facile light induced CO2 release. In this poster presentation at MRS Fall 2019 in December 2019, I presented my preliminary work with respect to the synthesis and performance of such materials.

Heavy-metal-free blue LEDs with 4% external quantum efficiency

High color-purity deep blue emissive materials are highly desirable for applications in displays. In this publication, we utilized amination to obtain bright, blue emitting carbon dots with record high color-purity. We used theoretical modeling to show that amination reduces electron-phonon interactions leading to lower band-gap fluctuation and therefore a narrower emission linewidth.

Read more about this work here.

Kamal and Alex’s preview on trap states in quantum dots is online!

Electronic traps are the primary factor stifling the performance of quantum-dot (QD) solar cells to nearly half their theoretical potential. Yet, the exact origin of these traps remains largely unknown, making it difficult to address the problem. In the inaugural issue of Matter, Gilmore et al. employ advanced transient spectroscopy to reveal that QD dimerization can be as detrimental as unpassivated surface states in QD films. 

To find out more about the relationship between squeezing elephants into rooms and the performance of optoelectronic devices. Read our paper here.

Fluorescent Chemosensors as Future Tools for Cancer Biology

It is well established that aberrant cellular biochemical activity is strongly linked to the formation and progression of various cancers. Assays that could aid in cancer diagnostics, assessing anticancer drug resistance, and in the discovery of new anticancer drugs are highly warranted. In recent years, a large number of small molecule-based fluorescent chemosensors have been developed for monitoring the activity of enzymes and small biomolecular constituents. These probes have shown several advantages over traditional methods, such as the ability to directly and selectively measure the activity of their targets within complex cellular environments. In this review, we summarize the recent developments in fluorescent chemosensors that have potential applications in the field of cancer biology.

Read our work here.

Making Diamonds from Petroleum Waste: Synthesis of 2-Adamantyl Metal Complexes

Imagine breaking a diamond down its smallest molecular repeating structure. The kind you would need a really strong microscope to see; what would you get? If you guessed Adamantane, you are correct!
What if I told you these diamondoids are extracted as waste during petroleum extraction, wouldn’t it be great if we could use them for something? In this publication, we share ways of functionalizing these molecules to make them useful.

Read more about this work here.