A Focus on our PhD Students – Lorne S. Joseph

Growing up in St. Lucia, I have always had goals of being part of something bigger. As an Afro-Caribbean woman in science I have gladly taken on the challenges of being a part of a historically underrepresented community in my field. At the age of 12, I moved to St. Croix (US Virgin Islands) where I went on to complete high school, followed by my pursuit of higher education. I received my undergraduate degree in chemistry and a minor in environmental science at the University of the Virgin Islands . In recognition of my academic achievements, I was awarded an NIH-MARC (National Institutes of Health “Maximizing Access to Research Careers”) Fellowship. As a MARC Fellow, I was able to conduct undergraduate research, which focused on a variety of topics including the investigation of water quality parameters within a local bioluminescent bay and a study that focused on the use of first-row transition metal complexes (specifically cobalt complexes) to release hydrogen gas from water.

My research experiences brought me to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as a summer RISE (Research Intensive Summer Experience) scholar and later as a SUPER (Summer Undergraduate Pipeline to Excellence at Rutgers) Graduate School Fellow where today I am a PhD candidate in the Materials Science and Engineering Program. I have been working with my mentor and sol-gel pioneer Professor Lisa Klein for the past four years on various sol-gel projects which include work on optimizing dye-sensitized solar cells.

Presently, my thesis focuses on the Investigation of High Proton Conductivity Materials at Modest Temperatures. The motivation for this work centers on the synthesis of fast-proton conducting melting gels using the sol-gel process that exhibit good water retention, high thermal stability, and low gas permeability. The approach combines the characteristics of melting gels with the proton conducting characteristics of hygroscopic oxide particles, namely zirconia phosphosilicates (P2 O5 -SiO2 -ZrO2 ). At Rutgers, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best researchers in this field and have made great strides in the area of sol-gel science.

After successful completion of my degree, I intend to pursue a career in higher education administration, using my background in research to assist with molding the new generation of researchers. As a young scientist, I am guided by my father’s advice which is to always make the most of my experiences and to take every opportunity available to me, remain persistent, and whenever I get discouraged remember how far I have come.