Renée GoodmanResearch opportunities in her undergrad career have propelled Renée Goodman to Oxford University for doctoral studies in condensed matter physics.

Research experience leads physics grad to pursue PhD

Undergraduate research opportunities in the Faculty of Science paid off for recent graduate Renée Goodman (BSc 2021), who is heading to Oxford University in the fall to pursue doctoral studies in condensed matter physics.

Focusing on organic electronics and polymer chemistry research, Goodman prepared novel stretchable conjugated polymers and self-healing materials in Simon Rondeau-Gagné’s materials chemistry lab from 2018 through 2021. A professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Dr. Rondeau-Gagné says Goodman became an important part of his group and greatly contributed to advancing his research.

“In her research, Renée performed a lot of organic synthesis, and used state-of-the-art instruments and techniques to characterize new materials in addition to starting an entirely novel direction in my research program on doped polymer blends, which allowed her to nicely combine her passion for materials chemistry and physics,” says Rondeau-Gagné.

“Renée is an outstanding researcher and scholar who contributed to our team in many various ways. I have no doubt she will continue to achieve excellence in the next chapter of her career at Oxford.”

Goodman says she appreciates the mentoring she received as well as the opportunity to spend time learning the theory behind the research, getting acquainted with the field, and training in lab techniques.

During her time in the lab, she contributed to four papers published in science journals. She says is most proud of the independent project she did on conductive plastics for her undergraduate thesis.

“I got the unique undergraduate experience to design an experiment from scratch where I actually built the materials and tested the materials, and to me this was an exciting opportunity and showed the trust Rondeau-Gagné had in me,” says Goodman. “It was more like a masters level experience when it comes to the level of responsibility.”

For her thesis work, Goodman says they were pitching a medical application.

“Conductive plastic has flexibility which opens up the mechanical properties, which you can incorporate into a wearable device that can measure things like breathing, heart rate, and body temperature,” she says.

“It was a lot of fun and Rondeau-Gagné is a great mentor who keeps in touch with his students and gives them the space to work independently — it opened me up to research as a career.”

Chris Houser, dean of science, says Goodman is a great example of the success stories generated by undergraduate research opportunities.

“The hands-on experiential learning experiences offered in the Faculty of Science are tailor designed to offer undergraduates the opportunity to graduate with career-relevant skills, including critical thinking and leadership — skills sought after by future employers,” says Dr. Houser.

—Sara Elliott

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