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Fellowships Can Lead to Working at High Frequencies

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: October 12, 2016

Nicolas Garcia, a senior electrical engineering major from Tome, N.M., was one of 30 students that was accepted to participate in the NDnano Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program for summer 2016.

The program, held annually since 2010, gives aspiring engineers and scientists an opportunity to gain valuable skills by conducting cutting-edge research in the fields of nanoscience or nanoengineering. Students in the program apply to a particular project of their interest and work under the guidance of faculty mentors, postdocs, and graduate students over a 10-week period.

Garcia ultimately decided to apply for a fellowship in order to gain experience in nanotechnology research. “The field is huge, and there is a lot to be done here,” he says. “I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up for a number of reasons.”  One of those is that the electromagnetic communications spectrum is incredibly saturated. Industry and government agencies take up most of the bandwidth that current technology can handle. In order to keep up with the demand for wireless devices, researchers must build devices that work at extremely high frequencies.

Working under Professors Jonathan Chisum, Patrick Fay, and Lei Liu on a project entitled “Microfabricated structures for millimeter-wave and sub-millimeter-wave electronics.” Garcia’s research focused on antennae hardware for microwave communications. “I was trying to build a very particular lens for signal broadcasting at high frequencies,” he says. “The lens technology I worked on will hopefully provide an effective means for broadcasting high frequency signals so that we can improve and expand wireless communications.”

In terms of his experience in this summer’s program, Garcia felt that his work was  “very engaging” and “represented a new challenge every day.” Although he conducted research in a team atmosphere, he felt as if the project was his very own at times. “I was actively controlling the direction of the research and I was free to pursue any routes I thought were promising,” he says.

Garcia is still considering his plans for the future and hopes that someday he will be a tech entrepreneur. However, he says “that’s a ways down the road.”

Outside of his studies, Garcia is highly involved with the Notre Dame Glee Club, an all-male a cappella singing group on campus. He is also a peer mentor for the College of Engineering.

— Andrew Ellam, Electrical Engineering