Jordan Campbell

As a participant in the Higher Education Research Experiences program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Jordan Campbell used computer simulations to investigate the effects of electron-beam interactions with solids.

Jordan Campbell did not let an early setback deter him from pursuing a career in science.

Instead, it only served as motivation.

As a middle schooler, Campbell was “snubbed for entrance into a magnet program for STEM,” he recalled. “No matter how much I enjoyed the history and arts program I was accepted into, I always wanted to be in the STEM program.”

Since then, Campbell has worked “stubbornly hard” to achieve success in STEM fields.

He graduated from Morehouse College in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Two years later, he received a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from the University of California, San Diego, where he is pursuing a doctorate in the same field.

Campbell bolstered his STEM credentials recently as a participant in the Higher Education Research Experiences (HERE) program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The HERE program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Campbell conducted his research at ORNL’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS).

Under the guidance of his ORNL mentors, Miguel A. Fuentes-Cabrera, Ph.D., and Panchapakesan Ganesh, Ph.D., Campbell used molecular dynamics to investigate the effects of electron-beam interactions with solids. Molecular dynamics is a computer simulation method for studying the movements of atoms.

“Our simulations act like very intense microscopes allowing us to see processes instead of just testing to see whether we achieved the desired result,” Campbell explained. “But because our simulations make a lot of approximations, we have to make sure that they represent what is actually happening in the experiment because we can’t see it. By proving that the simulation is right, we can make the current experiments better … and suggest new experiments that the experimentalist wouldn’t have thought to do.”

Campbell’s research focused on how electron-beam interactions affect the transformation from amorphous matter to a crystalline phase. This change is known as crystallization, the process by which a solid forms. Electron-beam crystallization was recently demonstrated at CNMS by Stephen Jesse and collaborators, and Campbell’s simulations aimed to shed some light into this process at the atomic level.

Through simulations, Campbell found that the electron beam causes crystallization, though how it achieves this is unclear.

“We want to mimic the crystallization and see the mechanism,” Campbell said.

One possible mechanism for crystallization is the kinetic energy supplied by the electron beam.

Campbell said he definitely would recommend the HERE program to others, because it connects participants with mentors who are “knowledgeable and willing to share.”

“Any collaborative environment like this is well worth the trip,” he said.

Once he completes his Ph.D. program, Campbell hopes to land a job in the industry sector and help lawyers and businesses better understand technology.

“I have been able to work on a project that has taught me a lot,” Campbell said of his time at ORNL. “I hope I can use this to understand many things in my future studies.”