News Archive

GRADUATION! DANIEL ANTONIO graduated with his Ph.D. Physics degree December 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius. His dissertation work entitled “High Pressure X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy Studies of Heavy-Fermion Cerium and Uranium Compounds” was supported by HiPSEC. Daniel took a job as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Idaho National Laboratory.

GRADUATION! DANIEL HABER   graduated with his M.S. Geoscience degree December, 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Burnley. His thesis work entitled “Predictive Modeling of Terrestrial Radiation Exposure from Geologic Materials” was supported by HiPSEC. Daniel is now a Nuclear Incident Scientist II for NSTec’s Remote Sensing Lab – Nellis, working on testing spectral shape change algorithms.

GRADUATION! PATRICIA KALITA graduated with her Ph.D. Physics degree May 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Cornelius. Her dissertation work entitled “High-Pressure Structural Studies of Ceramics and Nanocrystalline Glass-Ceramics of the Mullite Family” was supported by HiPSEC. Patricia now works as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Sandia National Laboratory.

GRADUATION! KARA MARSAC graduated with her M.S. Geoscience degree May, 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Burnley. Her thesis work entitled “Modeling Background Radiation using Geochemical Data” was supported by HiPSEC. Kara is continuing her education as a Ph.D. student at the Colorado School of Mines.

Award! The American Physical Society Division of Materials Physics has awarded MELANIE WHITE an Ovshinsky Student Travel Honorable Mention Award to attend the 2016 APS March Meeting.   This award will allow her to present her work with advisor Dr. Ravhi Kumar on a high pressure synchrotron x-ray diffraction and Raman study of rare earth pyrochlore oxide. Each year, ten Ovshinsky Student Travel Awards and ten Honorable Mention Awards are granted based on a highly competitive, international application process.   The awards enable students to participate in the APS March Meeting sessions and assist the careers of student researchers.

PUBLISHED!  Pressure induced structural transitions in CuSbS2 and CuSbSe2 thermoelectric compounds. Considerable efforts have been invested to enhance understanding of the structural, electrical, and optical properties of ternary chalcogenides with the general formula ABX2 (A, B are metal atoms and X is a chalcogen atom) because of their potential applications as possible thermoelectric materials, semiconductors for photovoltaic devices, and infrared detectors. In this study, we performed high-pressure angle dispersive powder x-ray diffraction and high-pressure Raman spectroscopy on CuSbS2 and CuSbSe2 up to a maximum pressure of 80 GPa. We observed a pressure induced structural phase transition from the ambient orthorhombic structure with Pnma space group to a monoclinic structure with P1 space group in both materials. Reported examples of an increase in thermoelectric efficiency across phase boundaries in PbX materials provides an interest in structural phase transitions in thermoelectric materials in general. As such, the identification of pressure-induced structural phase transitions in these ABX2 compounds may stimulate research interest into their thermoelectric properties at high-pressure conditions. Baker et al. J. Alloys Compd. 643, 186-194 (2015)

  December 2015 026Daniel Sneed designed and constructed a portable ruby fluoresce spectrometer. The instrument was commissioned by the Canadian Light Source and was installed in November 2015 in proximity of the IR beamlines.

This fall Emily Siska and Daniel Mast attended and presented posters at the IUCr IUCR2015High-Pressure workshop. The workshop focused on recent advances in high pressure techniques. Talks included high-pressure crystallography, new materials synthesis, physical and chemical properties, theory and computation, as well as technique developments for high-pressure studies at synchrotrons. The workshop was a good and productive experience where Emily and Daniel learned about high pressure techniques that will advance their research and had the opportunity to talk to researchers from around the world doing similar work.

AWARD! The Powder Diffraction Scientific Interest Group (SIG) of the American Crystallographic Association (ACA) has awarded Daniel Mast a 2015 Margaret C. Etter Student Lecturer Award. With this Daniel presented his high pressure work on technetium metal in Philadelphia, PA at the ACA 65th Annual Meeting, July 25th – 29th. Each SIG has the opportunity to select one student to receive an award and to present a lecture. Selections are based upon submitted abstracts and are independent of whether the student originally requested an oral or poster presentation.

 The DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications!

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science is pleased to announce that the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program is now accepting applications for the 2015 Solicitation 2Applications are due 5:00pm ET on Tuesday December 15, 2015.

The SCGSR program supports supplemental awards to outstanding U.S. graduate students to conduct part of their graduate thesis research at a DOE national laboratory in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist for a period of 3 to 12 consecutive months—with the goal of preparing graduate students for scientific and technical careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission.

Contributing at Las Vegas Science EventsIMG_20150602_133851

HiPSEC students Chris Higgins and Andrew Alvarado volunteered as judges at the


Skybot competition held on May 23 in Las Vegas. The event was also attended by Congressman Joe Heck. Here is a synopsis of the event:  “The main goal of the Skybot Engineering and Business Innovation Challenge (SEBIC) is to inspire students to find a passion in some aspect of technical education. It will be more than just “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”, commonly known as STEM. It will include business attributes, community service, espirit de corps, sportsmanship in the form of magnanimous competitiveness, and execution of the actual competition. Robotics have been part of competitions for many years. With the advent of airborne drones, or Skybots, it is imperative that the third dimension gets added. Nevada is the first in the nation with this competition.”

GRADUATION! Nirup Bandaru has completed his doctoral degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with Dr. Ravhi Kumar, Dr. Rama Venkat and Dr. Clemens Heske as advisory committee chairs. His dissertation work entitled “STRUCTURE AND OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF TRANSITION METAL DICHALCOGENIDES (TMDs) UNDER HIGH PRESSURE AND HIGH TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS” was supported by HiPSEC. Nirup took a job as a Research and Development Scientist at PDF Solutions, a semiconductor fabrication company located in San Jose, CA.

AWARD! The UNLV Foundation, in partnership with Southwest Airlines, has awarded Melanie White with the Student Travel Award for her work with Dr. Ravhi Kumar on a high pressure x-ray diffraction and high pressure Raman study of pyrochlore oxide, a potential nuclear waste containment material. Melanie will use the award to travel to Philadelphia, PA, to present the research at the American Crystallographic Association’s 65th Annual Meeting, July 25th – 29th. Melanie has also received an ACA Young Scientist Travel Grant. This project was also awarded first place at the 2015 UNLV CSUN Academic Affairs- Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Poster Conference.

AWARD! Howard Yanxon is awarded with 2015 McNair Scholar Summer Internship to work with Dr.Ravhi Kumar. The McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program on our campus is administered by the UNLV Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach which received a grant from U.S. Department of Education.

compoMARCH 20, 2015. Melanie White, Nolan Regis and Kelly Seaborg poster presentations won awards at the UNLV-CSUN-OURS Poster Conference.




UNLV-HiPSEC students presented their research at the 2015 SSAP symposium in Santa Fe, NM on March 11-12, 2015. We are particularly proud of Patricia Kalita and Daniel Sneed for winning best poster presentation awards.




On February 12, 2015 the review panel came to the UNLV for the annual HiPSEC review. We had the opportunity to showcase our results to scientists of the NNSA, LANL, LLNL, Sandia and NSTec. HiPSEC students had the opportunity to discuss their research with senior scientists, establish new connections and discuss career development opportunities.


John Howard graduated with his Ph.D. in Physics in the Fall of 2014. His dissertation is titled “Li+ Ion Transport in Select Lithium-Rich Antiperovskites”, with Dr. Yusheng Zhao as the advisory committee chair.
John studied high pressure physics under the direction of the late Malcolm Nicol during his undergraduate and M.S. studies, but made the transition to synthesizing and characterizing solid state electrolytes for his Ph.D. project. John plans to continue to work in the field of solid state electrolytes for battery applications.


Graduation ceremony: Chris Cline and Pamela Burnely

Graduation ceremony: Chris Cline and Pamela Burnely

GRADUATION! Chris Cline graduated with his M.S. degree in May 2014.  His thesis is entitled “The Effect of Single Crystal Elastic and Plastic Anisotropy on Stress and Strain Heterogeneity: Comparison of Olivine and Other Common Minerals”.  Chris became interested in high pressure research while he was an undergraduate working on HiPSEC projects in Pamela Burnley’s research group.  He is now working on a Ph.D. with Ian Jackson at the Australian National University.  He is studying the effects of water, defects and grain boundaries on the  attenuation of seismic waves in mantle rocks.

Fellowship! A NEUP-NE (Nuclear Energy University Program in Nuclear Engineering) fellowship worth $155,000 was awarded to Daniel Mast, beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year. Daniel is a second year Ph.D. student in the Radiochemistry program working in the Forester research group. His research is focused on the high pressure behavior of technetium metal and related technetium compounds. This fellowship will support Daniel’s work at UNLV for the next three years. The NEUP-NE provides fellowships and scholarships for students studying nuclear science and engineering. More information about the Nuclear Energy University Program can be found on their website, NEUP.

Fellowship! The recipient of the Malcolm F. Nicol Graduate fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year is Emily Siska. Emily is a first year Ph.D. student in the chemistry department working in the Forester research group. Her research is focused on the development of novel waste forms for the long term storage of nuclear waste using high pressure and temperature conditions. The MFN Graduate Scholars Program is a research assistantship program that supports incoming Ph.D. students in HiPSEC. More information about the MFN Graduate Scholars Program can be found here.

AWARD! On February 19, 2014, Daniel Sneed received the “OUTSTANDING POSTER” Outstanding Poster Award_NNSA SSAP MUEC symposiumaward at the 2014 SSAP symposium “Materials under Extreme Conditions”. His poster presentation was titled “Molecular Diffusion at Extreme Conditions”.


Dr. Pamela Burnley of the High Pressure Science and Engineering Center and Department of Geoscience has discovered a new paradigm for understanding the deformation behavior or polycrystalline materials.   Many familiar solid objects are composed of polycrystalline materials. Common examples of polycrystalline materials include metals, ceramics and rocks. Burnley’s work demonstrates that when these materials are forced to deform, their response is governed by a branch of mathematics known as percolation theory.   Familiar examples of percolation behavior include the path water takes as it moves through dry sand or the tracks made by raindrops running down a windshield. Burnley used mathematical models to show that stress travels through polycrystals in much the same way, focusing in some parts of the polycrystal while leaving other parts relatively untouched. Her work provides a single theoretical framework for a surprising diversity of phenomena ranging from the formation of gneissic banding (the layering of light and dark minerals that defines the metamorphic rock referred to as gneiss) to the formation of faults deep in the Earth’s lower crust and mantle. Her work has broad applications in geoscience, solid state physics, mechanical engineering and materials science.