Summer Research Snapshot: Graduate Student Taylor Evans

Graduate student Taylor Evans works at an instrument.This week is our third of four interviews that provide a snapshot of research and life in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Chemistry during summer.

Taylor Evans is a rising fourth-year chemistry graduate student in the Kyoung-Shin Choi research group. Taylor works on developing new semiconductor materials for varying processes.

Q: Tell me a bit about your research.

TE: In the Choi group, we focus on material development. I’m in a more niche project area in terms of which materials I use within the group. I work with metal sulfides to develop photocathodes for CO2 reduction and water reduction. In addition, I work on developing electrocatalysts to convert CO2 to usable fuels and understanding how these catalysts and photocathodes work together.

Q: What does a typical summer day in the lab look like for you?

TE: I’ll usually get into work around 8:30 a.m. and start doing rudimentary prep work such as annealing or prepping films, and setting up for electrolysis reactions. After lunch is when things really start picking up. I’ll set up a solution, get some electrodes in there, and begin an electrolysis, which will take the rest of the day. And by rest of the day, I mean until 7-8 p.m. That’s a typical weekday for me. On a weekend, I’ll come in around the same time and focus more on making films, so doing the actual electrodeposition, for the next week.

Q: Does today consist of the usual weekday activities?

TE: I started off the day by annealing and prepping films for platinum deposition later. Actually today is slightly atypical because I attended our group’s journal club where we all read a paper or a section of a book, sit down, and discuss it. This week’s topic was about interstitial charge transfer at the electrode surface. And the rest of the day I will be in lab doing platinum deposition on films. I then have time on the scanning electron microscope (SEM) to look at the films I’m working on.

I’m also going to check out the grand opening of the new graduate student and post-doc lounge.

Q: Do you feel like you accomplish more during the summer?

TE: Yes. Even though it might seem counter-intuitive, the nice weather during summer helps me get going in the morning. In the winter, when it’s 0˚F outside, I wake up and say “I really don’t want to get up and go to work today”. But in the summer, it’s nice and warm outside, but not too hot yet so I can get up, get ready, and go to work without a problem.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside lab?

TE: I’m sort of atypical because I enjoy alone time outside lab. I like going to the Terrace and relaxing there, either with friends or by myself. Taking walks along the Lakeshore Path is super relaxing. I also play Pokémon Go with several of my lab mates so that’s a lot of walking. I take yoga classes every once in a while, too.

Graduate student Taylor Evans works in lab.Q: What Are you looking forward to in the Fall semester?

TE: I’m looking forward to being a Catalyst mentor for an incoming first-year graduate student.

Q: What does the Catalyst program do?

TE: Catalyst is a program for incoming chemistry graduate students who may not be familiar with the graduate student environment. For example, first-generation graduate students or students who don’t have family that works in academia or industry. A current graduate student is paired with a mentee, and while we are not here to tell them exactly what to do in graduate school, we do share our experiences and what we have learned so far about the culture of graduate school. We’re there to answer any questions or just to be someone they can talk to. The program officially starts on August 24th, but I’m meeting up with my mentee a couple days beforehand.

—Nicole Thomas