Native of Salt Lake and a graduate from Olympus High School before attending the University of Utah, undergraduate Cedric Shaskey, B.S.’17 double majoring in mechanical engineering and physics, is a recipient of a prestigious 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, which covers tuition, fees, and a significant stipend for up to three years towards his doctorate degree. Additionally, he is a recipient of the College of Engineering Campbell Endowed Graduate Fellowship, which he plans to use towards the first year in his Ph.D. program. With his fellowships he will also have access to special opportunities for international research and professional development.

Shaskey said, “Everything fell in to place after taking Thermodynamics II and joining the Micro/Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion (METAC) Laboratory, advised by mechanical engineering assistant professor Keunhan Park.”

His dual degree and interest in nano-engineering aligned with the multidisciplinary, nanoscale research being conducted in the METAC lab. Plus the mentorship of Dr. Park and mechanical engineer Ph.D. candidate and member of the lab, Amun Jarzembski, cemented his desire to pursue a career in nanotechnology.

During his time as an undergraduate in the METAC, Shaskey has presented his research at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research, Research on Capitol Hill and the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. He was twice supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at the University of Utah.

An avid outdoorsman, Shaskey said, “A vast wilderness reminds me that the smallest elements combine to make the grandness of our universe and that by understanding nature on the smallest scale, you can begin to understand and manipulate it on the largest scale. This idea has inspired me to pursue a career in nanotechnology in the hope of broadly improving the quality of life by contributing to human understanding at the smallest scale.”

Shaskey’s research involves scattering-type near-field scanning optical microscopy (s-NSOM), which is a novel scanning probe microscopy that breaches the diffraction limit by collecting light scattered from an oscillating atomic force microscope (AFM) probe tip. The spatial resolution of s-NSOM depends only on the tip sharpness (typically on the order of 10nm) enabling nanoscale optical imaging. His hypothesis is that tip-scattering is conceptually analogous to far-field reflectance and thus sensitive to temperature.

His Ph.D. research will seek to use this correlation to realize a non-invasive, optical characterization technique with spatial resolution on the order of 10 nm by integrating s-NSOM with the pump-probe thermoreflectance scheme to enable probing of the spectral thermal conductivity accumulation function at the nanoscale in order to advance the understanding of phonon mean free path spectrum and its effects on thermal transport.

Cedric’s academic career is eclectic. He first got involved in research as a freshman when he joined the Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) Lab in the Physics and Astronomy Department. Through his time there, he fabricated OLED devices from scratch and tested their response to magnetic fields and temperature. The following year, he ran a house painting business. Within six months, the business grossed more than $25,000; while attending classes, he simultaneously organized six employees to complete sixteen projects with a 100% customer satisfaction rating.

In his third year at the University, Shaskey joined the Honors College Think Tank on the Uneasy Intersection of Law and Medicine. They developed the notion of post-prescription management – the idea that a physician’s commitment does not end with a signature on the prescription pad; that what happens after the prescription has been written is of pivotal importance to the patient, to the prescriber and to the community at large.

It was during his fourth year that Shaskey joined the Senator Bennett Seminar. Being the only science and engineering student to join the discussion revealed the importance of an active scientific community in the political process. In the future, Cedric hopes to form a student group with the goal of increasing political activity among academics.

In addition to academics, Shaskey is an accomplished outdoorsman. He has led over 30 three to five day excursions into mountain ranges across the western United States, including summiting the highest peaks in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada. Cedric also organizes, coaches and plays on a recreational soccer team – he is a huge fan of the Utah Jazz, Real Salt Lake and Bayern Munich.

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. Cedric Shaskey’s NSF GRFP is based on his demonstrated potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise.

To learn more about Shaskey and his research visit Micro/Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion (METAC) Laboratory.