University Joins Top Research Labs With New Equipment

Florida Polytechnic University is now home to a collection of analytical instruments typically found in some of the top research labs in the country.

While most of the general public has never heard of an X-ray diffractometer, they’ve certainly seen its products. A diffractometer uses X-rays to determine the structure of a crystal. It’s a test used to study the quality of everything from the microchips in your cell phone to the strength of an airplane’s wing. Now, Florida Poly students can learn how that’s done. Through an agreement with Rigaku, a world leader in X-ray instrumentation, Florida Poly has acquired a set of tools that range from a group of table-top X-ray diffractometers for teaching, to a state-of-the-art instrument – the Rigaku SmartLab diffractometer – for advanced research and development.

“The SmartLab is something you usually find in a high-end research environment, not a predominately undergraduate institution,” says Dr. Richard Matyi, director of the University’s nanotechnology program. “It’s a huge feather in Florida Poly’s cap.”

William McFee, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, says the machine will be a big benefit for his research into thin films and energy storage.

“We can collect much more data at one time with the SmartLab,” McFee says.

Kristyn Ardrey shares his enthusiasm. The junior is studying Mechanical Engineering and has interest in high-strength materials. The chance to work as an undergraduate with this type of equipment is “a huge opportunity,” she says.

Access to a diffractometer like the SmartLab will positively influence Florida Poly’s reputation for years to come, from attracting guest researchers to recruiting new faculty and students. But Dr. Matyi already has plans for the short-term.

For students serious about pursuing a career in nanotechnology, Dr. Matyi is also offering internships. This program will train students to become subject matter experts in one of the many analytical functions and capabilities of the SmartLab. Besides providing students with a hands-on experience on an advanced laboratory tool, a successful internship would result in a letter of recommendation from Dr. Matyi, who holds over 30 years of experience in this field.

“They’ll have to work hard, but they’ll learn more than they ever thought they could about scientific research,” Dr. Matyi says.