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I Am A Researcher!Liban-Jibril.png

Liban Jibril

UCSD Major: Chemical Engineering, Mathematics Minor

Graduate Degrees: Northwestern University, Materials Science and Engineering, (M.S. 2019, PhD expected 2022)

URH Programs: McNairFaculty Mentor Program, NACME Scholar

What did you research while in URH Programs?

I worked with Professor Darren Lipomi from the nanoengineering department on a few projects which could be summarized as 'nanofabrication' projects. Basically designing methods to control a materials' structure at the nanoscale, which can often lead to new interesting properties. The project I worked hardest on involved making a single gold nanowire which could be used to detect small amounts of mechanical tension or 'strain'.

How did your experience in the McNair Program help you on your journey?

The McNair fellows program was crucial to building the skills and confidence I needed to really pursue a great graduate school program. In my first 2 years of undergrad I had already gotten a lot of research exposure, and knew that I wanted to have the option to go to grad school for my PhD. However, competitive graduate programs are very difficult to get into even with a good GPA; many value research experience (which makes sense, since this shows you know what you're getting yourself into!) Having the chance to spend the summer before senior year doing research full-time and getting GRE training helped me to ensure I had options by the time I was about to graduate. Additionally the funding help with fee waivers for the GRE and help with getting waivers to apply to several schools made the application process much easier to handle financially. Ultimately I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be where I am today without all that support!

What are you doing now?

Wrapping up my PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at NU, where I focus on nanotechnology still, but now more related to synthesis and properties of nanoparticles. Because of my undergraduate research, I earned an NSF GRFP and an internal Northwestern fellowship. Hard work pays off!

Any tips for success for current undergraduate researchers?

What do you hope to gain by pursuing research experience? Exposure to faculty mentors, the option to go to graduate school and learn to be a scientist, or the chance to learn about a new exciting field? Regardless, I think it's very important to be as strategic as possible in trying to achieve your goals. Ultimately the easiest (perhaps not best) metric of research output is publications. If possible try to work in a research group where publications come quickly to increase your chance of being a participating member on something. Of course certain fields have slower research milestones, but try to find ways to quantify your output! Besides that, in research it's easy to get bogged down in details, or to spend weeks working on a problem with nothing to show for it. If something doesn't work within 1 week of trying, start preparing a backup plan! Also don't be afraid to ask for help; academics love to talk and explain things. Ultimately the more committed you are to your research experience, the more of a head-start you'll have in graduate school. However, whether you go to grad school or not, research experience is a bit like a science internship, it will teach you how to think like a scientist, which is advantageous regardless of your final destination. 

Anything else you'd like to share with us/students?

I hope many of you are able to have the research experience you desire, and able to give yourselves as many options as possible for your post-UCSD careers! And try to have fun, working on the cutting edge of human knowledge is pretty cool after all!