In cyclic voltammetry, chemists measure the current produced by a substance under different voltages, giving them insight into how that substance accepts or loses electrons. It’s valuable for Hematian’s research into how electrons flow in certain materials and chemical reactions, which has the potential to make a wide range of technologies cheaper, more efficient, and environmentally friendly.
Learning the skill also provides Tapia with a skill that’s marketable. “Just by knowing that technique you can go get a job,” Hematian says. “For example, electrochemistry is foundational to battery science.”
This summer, Tapia attended a three-day cyclic voltammetry bootcamp as the youngest attendee and one of only two undergraduates.
“Marcos was one of the most engaged researchers,” says UNC Professor Jillian L. Dempsey, who ran the bootcamp. “He asked deep, probing questions about electrochemistry and the associated theory, a true testament to how deeply engaged he is with his own research project.”
Photos: Tapia in the lab working with his mentor Dr. Hematian and a potentiostat, which he uses for cyclic voltammetry experiments
In Tapia’s current work in the Hematian lab, the focus is on understanding how oxygen atoms can be added to a material, and how reversible that process is. As a freshman, he applied for, and won, funding from UNCG’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creativity Office to support a research project on oxygen chemistry and copper.
Now, as a sophomore, he has his first publication, co-authored with Hematian and other researchers in her lab.
“Being in a research group actually makes you think about what you are doing” Tapia says. “We do these weekly presentations, and we have to take our data and actually present.”
The lab’s training has prepared him to present his research at conferences this fall, including the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Puerto Rico.
He’s also thinking about life after he earns his bachelor’s degree. He has dreamed of becoming a doctor but graduate school in chemistry is another option to weigh.
“I’m thinking more about my future – undergraduate research has really helped me out with that because I get to talk to people with PhDs, master’s degrees," he says.
"I get to interact with a community of science that I’ve never been exposed to as a first-generation student.”