WT Students Get Rare Research Opportunity at Major Florida Lab

Chip Chandler Nov 29, 2021
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WT Students Get Rare Research Opportunity at Major Florida Lab

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — Two West Texas A&M University chemistry and physics students got hands-on research experience at a one-of-a-kind Florida lab in a continuing effort to find ways to revolutionize personal electronics.

Duncan Miertschin, a senior physics major from Amarillo, and Thinh (John) Nguyen, a graduate chemistry student from Da Nang, Vietnam, recently conducted experiments at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Fla.

“We are looking for a material that could replace currently used materials for transferring electricity with better efficiency and lower production costs,” Nguyen said.

The Tallahassee lab is the largest and highest-powered magnet laboratory in the world, allowing researchers to study materials that have been cooled to nearly 0 degrees Kelvin, the lowest temperature in the universe, and their reactions to such high magnetic fields.

“This is a continuation of the publication I did with Dr. Keshav Shrestha that looked into topological insulators,” Miertschin said. “We’re looking for better conductors of electricity, better materials that are more robust against impurities, and more economical replacements for materials like copper, which is super expensive.”

The students and Shrestha were in Florida for a week.

“This has been an eye-opening experience for me just being around the world’s strongest magnet and seeing how the lab functions and operates,” Nguyen said. “As WT students, this is a rare opportunity because these labs can cost millions to run, so these resources aren’t widely available.”

“As an undergrad,” Miertschin said, “having this research experience even before I get into graduate school and before I’ve even finished my applications will help me immensely in starting my career as early as possible.”

Topological insulators using tin, lead and tellurium are a recent innovation in materials science that are efficient conductors of electricity and are highly resistant to impurities, Shrestha said.

Such research activities are one way in which WT is strengthening its position as a Regional Research University, a key priority of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign.


About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 40 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.