Graduate Member Spotlight: Jennifer DiStefano

Jennifer DiStefano
Ph.D. Candidate
Materials Science and Engineering
Northwestern University
Expected Graduation: 2020

JenniferDiStefano

Jennifer began her SWE career as an officer on the inaugural GradSWE board at Northwestern University three years ago. In her first position as Professional Development Chair, Jennifer introduced programming that has continued to this day, such as luncheons with women professors at Northwestern. Jennifer has been on the officer board since then; in fact, she now leads the GradSWE at Northwestern group. She is passionate about introducing STEM fields to girls at a young age, but also believes it is critical to nurture their interest in STEM while they look towards higher education and future careers. To that end, she is focusing on expanding the outreach and mentoring initiatives of GradSWE by making women graduate students visible and accessible to K-12 girls and undergraduate STEM students alike. Her SWE conference engagement includes presenting a workshop on elevator pitches at WE Local Milwaukee in 2017 and placing first at the Rapid Fire research presentation competition at WE18.

Jennifer is recognized as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow as well as a Northwestern International Institute of Nanotechnology Ryan Fellow.

Thesis Topic: 2D Material Nanocomposites

Since the discovery of graphene in 2004, 2D materials have drawn considerable interest for their potential in future electronics. These materials are ultra-thin – only a few atoms thick – and this reduced dimensionality leads to a host of properties not found in traditional electronic materials, including flexibility and transparency. Some of these atomically-thin materials are semiconductors, making them promising candidates for future electronic and optical applications, including solar cells and LED lighting. If these 2D semiconductors could be combined with other functional nanomaterials in nanocomposites, an even broader array of properties – and with that, future applications – would result.  Jennifer’s research focuses on exploring the formation and properties of new structures that combine 2D materials with other useful nanomaterials such as gold and silver.

After graduation, Jennifer is interested in a career in science policy or scientific consulting. Outside of work, she enjoys bird-watching (which Chicago is surprisingly good for!) in addition to reading and hiking.

Fun Fact: Jennifer is from a beautiful, but quite rural, part of Pennsylvania. So rural, in fact, that her high school had an annual “Drive Your Tractor to School Day,” in which several students inevitably participated.

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