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Engineering | Undergraduate Research

Christopher Balzer, FURI researcher

Christopher Balzer, FURI researcher

What research do you do?

I work in Dr. Bin Mu‘s lab on applications of nanoporous materials, specifically metal-organic frameworks. My FURI project consists of investigating the effect of volatile organic compounds on the luminescence properties of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Depending on the change in light intensity of the MOFs when exposed to the different compounds, I can see if the MOF will work well as a sensor. These sensors have applications in health/safety systems as volatile organic compounds have a wide range of negative effects on the body.

How did you find your faculty mentor?

I looked into the research my mentor had done in the past and the various applications of his research. I emailed him expressing interest in the direction the lab was moving and we had a meeting to discuss some of the possible projects. Dr. Mu was incredibly accommodating to where I was as a student and remains to be extremely helpful in helping with my project and helping me conduct research.

What have you learned from conducting research?

Obviously, I have learned a lot about the topic I study, but research is more than about content. I have learned how to think about problems. There isn’t always a brute force approach to a problem. Research lets me think creatively and allows me to work with other people to solve a problem. In the same vein, research has made me a better student because it constantly pushes the limit of what I think I can do.

In terms of experience, I’m more confident in writing and talking about my research, which makes writing proposals or papers a lot easier. I am familiar with common characterization techniques, machinery. and lab practices that I can use in the future.

What advice would you have for students wanting to do research?

Anyone who is interested in doing research should give it a try. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or senior; talk to someone you know about research and then email a faculty member who researches something you find interesting. If their lab is full or they aren’t looking for new people, email a different faculty member. ASU is one of the largest universities in the nation; there’s plenty of labs that need people.

Finally, research isn’t a mythical object reserved for the smartest people in your classes. On the outside, it can appear as such, but you don’t need to know everything when you start. Everyone around you is there to help.

What are some other activities you like to do, in addition to being a rockstar researcher?

I enjoy running, playing classical/blues guitar, and reading classic novels.




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