Zachary Gibson

2021 Chateaubriand STEM Fellow
Utah State University - Université Paul Sabatier

Zachary Gibson is a PhD candidate at Utah State University, and was a Chateaubriand Fellow at the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France for 5 months.

What is your current occupation?
PhD Candidate

In which field did you carry out your research for your PhD and what was your specific area of study?
Physics: Charge Transport in Dielectrics

Please give a brief description of the work you completed in France:
Together with the DSF team in the LAPLACE lab at Université Paul Sabatier, we worked on studying the effects of different radiation sources on the aging of polymers. This involved damaging thin film samples with x-ray, gamma ray, and electron irradiation and then depositing charge within the bulk with an energy electron beam. The resulting charge distributions were measured via the pulsed electroacoustic method and a DC bias was applied to further study the differences in charge transport in the aged samples. I helped to characterize and improve the pulsed electroacoustic system as well as improve the procedures for running the electron gun, and I gained experience using other measurement techniques such as FTIR and DSC. We also had a thorough look at comparing and contrasting the results of the pulsed electroacoustic measurements at my home institution and host laboratory.

How was your experience as a researcher in France?
My research experience in France was wonderful. I had the opportunity to work with great people, exchange ideas, and gain a lot of experience. I also had the chance to explore much of France, as well as Europe, to immerse myself in the culture as well as to present at conferences in Italy and the Netherlands.

Comments on your experience as a researcher in France and conditions in your host lab
My French advisor was kind, supportive, knowledgeable, and very helpful, which helped to make my time in France a great experience. We accomplished a lot more than I would have thought in such a short amount of time. The facilities and other members of the lab were amazing as well.

Did or will your research in France lead to any co-publications?
If yes, please describe (name of journal, date of publication):

Our work comparing and contrasting the results from our respective labs pulsed electroacoustic systems has been submitted and accepted for conference proceedings at the Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena (CEIDP) already. A peer reviewed paper on that study is likely to follow. We are still finishing the analysis of data related to the aging of materials, and this will likely result in at least one additional publication.

Did you or one of your supervisors present your work at a seminar? Do you plan on doing so?
If yes, please describe (name of seminar, date, type of presentation):

“Round Robin Tests of Electron Irradiated Polymers via Pulsed Electroacoustic Measurements,” Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, Denver, CO, October 30 – November 3, 2022 (talk)
“Pulsed Electroacoustic Measurements of Polymers Irradiated with Low Energy Monoenergetic Electrons,” ISMSE and ICPMSE Joint Conference on Materials in the Space Environment, Leiden, Netherlands, September 18-23, 2022 (poster)
“On the Uncertainties of the Pulsed Electroacoustic Method,” International Conference on Dielectrics, Palermo, Italy, July 3-7, 2022 (poster)
We also plan to present the research on the aged samples but it is TBD.

In your opinion, did the Chateaubriand Program contribute to closer ties between your US and French labs (why or why not)?
Yes, I believe this has greatly sped up the collaboration between our labs. While we have had a desire to collaborate for a number of years, it is difficult to do when so far apart. We now have several projects we have completed and more are in the works. I believe this played a large role in jump-starting the collaboration between our labs.

Did you improve your French while in France?
Oui, mais je ne parle pas très bien. Je comprends un peu mieux.
I learned much more than I had in France than the year prior attempting to prepare for the trip. I’m not fluent yet, but I have come a long way.

Do you plan on returning to France in the future?
If yes, please describe your plans:

Yes, of course.
There are future professional conferences in France in my field, but I will also plan to come back for fun. I would of course be open to coming to work in this lab again given the opportunity.

Did you participate in any extracurricular activities or travel while in France?
Yes, of course. I visited so many places around France and Europe, enjoying the amazing food, drinks, and culture everywhere I went. Just to name a few, I rode bikes around France and Belgium, visited the beach in Majorca, Barcelona, and Sicily, and enjoyed the outdoors in the Pyrenees and national parks in Croatia.

Call 2023-2024

The 2023-2024 call for applications is opened.