MS&E Department welcomes new faculty

New Faculty

The Materials Science & Engineering Department is pleased to welcome two new additions to it's faculty. Dr. Dmitry Bedrov and Dr. Taylor D. Sparks have joined the department as full-time faculty in time for the fall semester. Both are University of Utah alum. Dr. Bedrov in Chemical & Fuel Engineering (Ph.D., '99) and Dr. Sparks in Materials Science & Engineering (B.S., '07). Both bring extensive background and research in their respective fields and will be valuable assets to the future of the department. 

To get to know our new faculty better, we asked them a few questions about their research, personal lives and excitement about their new positions in the department. Get to know Dr. Bedrov & Dr. Sparks more personally along with us ...


Interview with Dr. Dmitry Bedrov

Please share a short bio of yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here? Please share a short biographical sketch of yourself.

When people ask me "where I am from" I am always puzzled with what to answer. From planet Earth seems to be an easy answer. I was born in Uzbekistan, spent the first five years of my life in Germany, grew up in Siberia (Russia), went through college in Ukraine, and then came to United States for a graduate study which eventually brought me to Utah. I have lived in Salt Lake City for more than sixteen years, which is the longest time I have lived in any other place in the world. So I guess I am more Utahan than anything else.  I got my B.S. in Thermophysics at the Odessa State Academy of Refrigeration in Ukraine in 1995, and in 1999 I got my Ph.D. in Chemical and Fuels Engineering at the University of Utah. Since then I have had many years of postdoctoral and research faculty experience at the Materials Science & Engineering Department.

How did you choose a career path into Materials Science & Engineering?

As you can see from my biographical sketch, my career path has naturally converged to it.

What will/does your research emphasis focus on?

Multiscale molecular modeling of soft condensed matter using ab-initio methods, atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, coarse-grained molecular simulations and continuum level modeling. Materials and systems of interest include: batteries; fuel cells; supercapacitors; liquid crystals; polymer blends, melts and solutions; self-assembled polymers and nanocomposites, membranes; explosives; and rocket fuels.

What advice would you give students wanting to get involved in the Materials Science & Engineering program here at the U.

Chemical structure and composition of materials, their fabrication and processing technologies, as well as the range of their applications, are rapidly changing and expanding. In order to keep up with the fast pace of technological developments and to prepare yourself to deal with novel materials of the future, do not study specific materials! Instead, focus on understanding and mastering the underlying fundamental principles and physical laws that govern materials properties and their structure-properties relationships.      

What are some of your favorite “escapes” from your research and work?

After an exhausting, long, and productive (or sometimes not so much) day in front of a computer I like to recharge and clear my head at a Bikram (hot) yoga studio by taking a 90 minute class in a blistering hot and sweaty room. When I can find a few free days you would most likely find me backpacking somewhere in the southern Utah canyons.    

What do you like about living in Salt Lake City?

Everything.


Interview with Dr. Taylor Sparks

Please share a short bio of yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here? Please share a short biographical sketch of yourself.

I was born and raised in Layton, UT. I attended Layton High School and then Westminster College in SLC for 1 year before serving an LDS mission in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Upon returning in 2004 I transferred to the University of Utah as a Materials Science and Engineering major. I loved the department, participating in the SAC, and working as a research intern at Ceramatec Inc. During this time I met and married my wife, Jodi, also from Layton. After graduating in 2007 I started grad school at UCSB working with Prof. David Clarke in the Materials department. Two years later I was surprised to learn that my advisor was leaving UCSB to join the faculty at Harvard University. I decided to join him at Harvard to complete my PhD in Applied Physics. During grad school I obtained funding to spend three summers doing research abroad in China; two summers in Beijing at Tsinghua University and one summer at the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. I received my PhD in 2012 and returned as a postdoc to Santa Barbara in the Materials Research Laboratory working with Prof. Ram Seshadri. My wife and I have two kids; Atticus, born in Boston, and Evelyn, born in Santa Barbara.  It's great to be back!

How did you choose a career path into Materials Science & Engineering?

My dad was an engineer and I grew up working on engines and electronics projects with him. I remember being intrigued at the potential for technology to improve people's lives. When I transferred to the U to study engineering I didn't want to be restricted to a single discipline, so when I met with Ashley and she explained how MSE was at the cross-roads of several fields such as chemistry, physics and engineering I knew it was the right fit for me. In fact, I've been able to do research in many areas like biomaterials, renewable energy systems, structural ceramics, and novel magnetic materials.

What will/does your research emphasis focus on?

While I am generally interested in exploring a myriad of structure property relationships in materials I am most passionate about developing materials that will enable new sustainable energy technologies. Therefore, my research group will synthesize and characterize new materials for applications such as thermal barrier coatings, thermoelectrics, and magnetoelectrics to list a few.

What advice would you give students wanting to get involved in the Materials Science & Engineering program here at the U.

The best advice I received as an undergrad was to ask your professors about undergraduate research opportunities. Even though there were no positions available in the MSE department when I asked I was directed to Ceramatec where I was in intern for two years. As you apply the things you learn in class you will understand them much better. In addition, I would advise students to get to know your classmates and study together and participate in outreach programs through the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). Your classmates will become an important part of your professional network throughout your career.

What are some of your favorite “escapes” from your research and work?

I have a lot of hobbies and really enjoying learning new things. Be it playing guitar, learning languages, baking artisan bread, web design or anything else, I enjoy the challenge of mastering new skills. I'm particularly fond of the outdoors. My wife and I actually met working at a boy scout camp up in Yellowstone. I still regularly go rock climbing, backpacking, snowboarding, surfing and canyoneering.

What do you like about living in Salt Lake City?

It's hard for us to leave the beautiful mountains and beaches of Santa Barbara, but the Wasatch Front itself is a fantastic place to live if you enjoy the outdoors. There are tons of national parks, world class skiing and rock climbing, and the city itself is big enough to have plenty of fun things always going on. We are really excited to live near family as well since we both grew up in the area