Modus Operandi with Adrian Gordon

Modus Operandi is a regular series that peers into the methods and personalities of UO  undergraduate scholars. 

Adrian Gordon is a junior chemistry major conducting research in the Boettcher Lab.  Adrian’s research is focused on finding more efficient ways to store solar energy via solar water splitting cells.  Specifically, I work on studying semiconductor-electrocatalyst contacts in water splitting systems.

UROP caught up with Adrian to learn more about her modus operandi.

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start? 

Soon after I started college I realized I wanted to do research.  I felt that in my classes I wasn’t getting a full picture of what it meant to be a chemist or a scientist, so I decided to go to the research labs, where real chemistry is taking place.   I just emailed professors whose research interested me until one of them responded to me.

Students are busy; do you use any apps or technology to help manage your time and productivity?

I’m pretty old fashioned when it comes to these things, so I usually make to-do lists with pen and paper.  I like writing things out by hand.

What are the primary tools, equipment, and/or resources that you use in conducting research? What do they do?

Since I work with photovoltaics, a lot of my research involves making electrical measurements, such as measuring current responses to potential changes in electrochemical systems. The device I use most often to control cell potential and measure current is called a potentiostat.  Another technique I’m excited to have recently begun using is Atomic Force Microscopy, which produces a kind of topographic map of the surface of electrodes.

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I think I would do research in music or literature, because I love both of these art forms.

What is your favorite place on campus?

My favorite place is one of the benches on the south side of the Knight Library.  It’s a very rejuvenating place to sit and look at the trees of the graveyard and hear fragments of music drifting across the field from the music building.

What are you currently reading?

For a long time I’ve been reading this gigantic novel “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust.  I find it very insightful and funny.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what genre(s) and why?

I find listening to music too distracting, but there is always music in my head.  Usually it is one of my favorite composers like Beethoven, Schubert or Mahler.

How do you stay inspired and energized?

Other people I know and work with inspire me.  When I feel discouraged talking to another person has the power to change my mindset.

Have you thought about what you want to do after graduation?

I would like to eventually go to graduate school and continue research.  But I don’t think I want to go straight into graduate school after I finish undergrad.

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

I think it’s different for everyone, but for me it is becoming more confident in the lab, which was initially a scary place for me.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

If you are in an awkward situation, take a deep breath and pretend you are someone more confident.