REU Student Spotlight: Erica Lopez

By Phoebe Grinnell, SEAS Correspondent

NAME: Erica Lopez

HOMETOWN: St. Augustine, Fla.

COLLEGE: University of Florida


MAJOR: Materials science and engineering

HARVARD LAB: Amir Yacoby, Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics

RESEARCH MENTOR: Trevor David Rhone

What are you researching?

I am researching ferromagnetic resonance (FMR) measurements, looking at magnetism at a microscopic level. Our goal is to understand how FMR works at an atomic level.

Tell me about the specific projects you are working on. What is involved in the lab work you do each day?                

We are investigating FMR absorption, using a material called YIG (Yttrium, Iron, Garnet) as the control and a material called CGT (Chromium, Germanium, Telluride) to compare. We are in the process of measuring the level of YIG and constructing the measurement device to calculate CGT levels, so we can then compare the data.

What do you enjoy about research or science in general? How did you become interested in science?                                                                               

From a young age I have been interested in the components of different things, especially things that are really tiny. I was thinking of atoms before I even knew what atoms were. My interest carried through my life and into college. I love research because it is fascinating to be on the cutting edge and come up with these novel ideas to help society.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge of working in a research lab?                                                                                                                               

It can take a long time to get results. I have to be patient, determined, and steadfast in my lab. When something breaks I can’t just give up. It can be frustrating to get to the next step, encounter a hurdle and then have to start all over or fix it. It’s just a matter of time where I spend so much time fixing this one area that’s one little piece of the giant puzzle.

How do you think this experience will benefit you in your future coursework or career aspirations?

I think this program gives great insight into what it’s like to be an actual Ph D. student. It pushes me closer to grad school and gives me a glimpse of what that life would look like. It is a good foundation for what research is like in an academic setting and the steps needed to get where you want to be. I now have a better understanding of how to conduct research in a way that actually matters and I have learned how I can improve on some of my weaknesses.

What are your hobbies?                                                                                                     

I love to work out, play soccer, explore, hike, and do anything outdoors.