News Research

July 15, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Jakkala Reflects on Physics Graduate Program Strengths

By Kate Nichols
NQPI editorial intern

Dr. Pratheesh Jakkala graduated from Ohio University with his Ph.D. in physics in 2016. His research focused on the fabrication of solar cells and III-V Nitrides using a sputtering method and characterization of solar cells and thin films. Jakkala has most recently served as an assistant professor of physics at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. For a portion of the summer of 2019, however, he is back at the OHIO Athens campus.

One of the reasons that Jakkala is visiting OHIO is to spend time working with his Ph.D. adviser, Dr. Martin Kordesch, Professor in Physics & Astronomy and member of the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute. Kordesch has been a guide and mentor to Jakkala even after graduation. During his visit, Jakkala is making titanium oxide and titanium nitric oxide films, which are important for solar cells. He will measure electrical and optical properties of these films, and determine their structural properties if time permits. Undergraduate students who are under his supervision will use the samples in different research projects.

Returning to one’s alma mater always has the potential to bring about feelings of nostalgia. “One of my favorite things is always coming back and seeing Dr. Kordesch,” Jakkala said. “Working in the same lab again brings back some of the memories of (learning at) this place.” Because of these memories, he has become a regular presence on campus in the last couple of years—visiting in the winter of 2017 and the summer of 2018.

Jakkala has had an excellent experience at Illinois College (IC). He holds a tenure-track position in the Department of Physics, and his duties involve teaching and research. On the side, Jakkala has found time to develop outreach activities and create the Illinois College Physics Festival. The Festival is an open house style event that invites young students from local schools to go and see physics demonstrations made by undergraduate students. As the festival’s organizer, Jakkala met the challenge headfirst, and fashioned the event after OHIO’s Physics & Astronomy biennial open house event. He learned firsthand how much planning it took to launch a successful family-friendly science event.

The IC Physics Festival aimed “to reduce the fear of physics, and to show that physics can be fun.” Jakkala wanted to provide an opportunity for young people to experience firsthand the joy of observing cool experiments and asking questions about why things work. This past year’s Physics Festival was a hit—12 schools participated, with 700 visitors coming through to see the demonstrations. Though it was a lot of hard work, Jakkala said that it was all worth it when kids were saying things like “This is so much fun!” “This is so cool!” and “I want to go here!”

In the academic year beginning this September, Jakkala will return to the state of Ohio where he has accepted a position as an assistant professor of physics at the University of Cincinnati. Reflecting on his experiences at OHIO and in the workforce, Jakkala said that there is a big difference between graduate school and becoming an educator. “The education and training at Ohio University definitely helps with the transition to life as an assistant professor.”

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