Michael Braun: Complex applications
There were many factors that attracted Michael Braun tomajor in materials science and engineering in the College of
Science and Engineering.
The University is only 90 minutes north of his hometown
of Rochester, Minn., and offers the added advantage of being
located close to downtown Minneapolis, with an array of academic,
social, and cultural opportunities. Plus, CSE is highly
ranked in the field he’s pursuing.
Then, too, and perhaps most important, were the multiple
scholarships he has received, including the Clifford I. and
Nancy C. Anderson Scholarship, which nearly covered his tuition.
“This funding meant that the University was not only
highly regarded but also financially attainable for me,” Braun
In naming his most rewarding experience so far in CSE,
Braun cites his work with the Leighton Research Group, headed
by Christopher Leighton, a professor in the Department of
Chemical Engineering and Materials Science who is also the
department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. At the suggestion
of his then physics professor, Braun began volunteering
at the Leighton lab in his freshman year. He then was hired in
the fall as an undergraduate research assistant.
“The research I’m doing is in material systems on a complex
oxide that has interesting electrical and magnetic properties,” he explains. “I’m looking at the physics that causes the features
we are observing, such as a phenomenon known as persistent
“This funding [the Clifford I. and Nancy C. Anderson Scholarship] meant that the University was not only
highly regarded but also financially attainable for me.”
Persistent photoconductivity is a property that could prove
useful for any number of applications, for example in optical
switching devices. Complex oxides also are being investigated
for their potential use in a variety of other applications.
In the Leighton research lab, Braun plays several roles in
these investigations. In addition to working with the research
team, he has, on his own, set up an electromagnet and a closed
cycle refrigerator system that can reach temperatures as low as
8 Kelvin (-265 °C) without the use of liquid helium.
He also works on his own sub-project investigating different
properties of the complex oxide La1-xSrxCoO3, in his case the
complex oxide is a film as thin as 3 to 30 nm. Thin films in general
have additional applications that Braun is particularly interested
in, such as coatings for LED displays or on camera lenses.
A May 2015 graduate, Braun intends to go to graduate school
to obtain a Ph.D. in materials science. Due to the wide array of
potential fields to work in, he says it’s difficult to pin down exactly
what he plans to do after finishing his doctorate.
“I think this is a field with a lot of potential,” he says. “Take,
for example, cracks in roads and bridges like the one that led
to the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis [in 2007]. That
could have been prevented with a material that healed itself
when cracks first appeared.
“This could save money and lives by making roads and bridges
much safer by alerting us to the fact that things are going
wrong before, say, the sudden collapse of a bridge,” he said.