Elliot Bartis Interview

As promised, here is an interview with our first featured scientist.  Dr. Elliot Bartis is a recent graduate of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland.  In my opinion, Dr. Bartis is a rising star in the field of plasma science.  In this interview, he talks about his research and also introduces us to some of his personal interests.

 

Feel free to share your thoughts with Dr. Bartis!  Please use the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 

What is your personal motto?

“Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”

For any project or task, there are rarely shortcuts to doing great work. It is a waste of time to not do the job 100% the first time. I don’t believe in rough drafts, only first versions. For me, this applies not only to writing manuscripts or grants, but also to making figures for presentations or conceiving an experimental plan. This motto also comes in handy with home repairs!

Which of the papers that you authored are you most proud of and why?

Toward the end of my Ph.D., I wrote a comprehensive paper that examined surface modifications of immune-stimulating biomolecules by atmospheric pressure plasma and correlated those changes with changes in biological activity. We used mild, remote treatments in our work that do not damage the target surface through, for example, material removal, which is important for treating sensitive surfaces. The biomolecules had complex molecular structures with a variety of functional groups such as aliphatic chains, alcohols, and esters, to name just a few. In our approach, we isolated these functional groups by using model polymers. For example, polyvinyl alcohol isolated alcohol groups and polypropylene isolated aliphatic chain. For identical treatments, each polymer showed different susceptibilities to modifications. In addition to oxidation, a generic effect of these treatments was the formation of NO3 groups, which had not been reported before outside our research group. The amount of NO3 varied dramatically among the surfaces, demonstrating the selectivity of its formation. This surface species originated from the gas phase and correlated better with changes in biological activity than general oxidized species such as carbonyl groups. This type of fundamental work is required to advance the field. The paper is currently under review and I am very excited for the plasma community to read it.

How much did your mentor influence you?

My Ph.D. advisor, Professor Gottlieb Oehrlein, taught me a great deal toward becoming an effective researcher. Throughout the time I spent in his lab, he provided me with the tools to strive for excellence in everything I do. He has high standards, and seeks an atomistic understanding of plasma-surface interactions. I believe this attitude spreads through his lab and sticks with his students. It definitely helped to shape my personal motto and work ethic. I now hold my work to a very high standard, and can see how even just a little extra work done in the right places can make a large difference. His mentorship was transformative for me and the lessons and values he taught me will stick with me throughout my life.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

I have many. One of my earliest hobbies is swimming. I started swimming as a boy and continued up until I graduated from college. Swimming competitively on my college team was a very positive experience for me. I truly enjoyed the camaraderie on the team and training toward a common goal. I am still very close with the friends I made on the team. I do not train anymore, but I enjoy a putting some laps in every once in a while.

A more recent hobby of mine is baking breads. I find the process relaxing and the results delicious. My favorites to make (and eat) are dark rye bread and soft pretzels. It’s so much better than what you find in the supermarket!

 

Figure Caption: X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy was used to measure the surface chemistry of polymers after cold atmospheric plasma treatment by a surface microdischarge. Examining nitrogen moieties showed that NO3 formed in different amounts depending on the molecular structure of the treated surface. None of the pristine films contained nitrogen and only some contained oxygen, indicating that the precursors for this surface-bound NO3 originate from the gas phase. This work has been submitted for publication.

Figure Caption: X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy was used to measure the surface chemistry of polymers after cold atmospheric plasma treatment by a surface microdischarge. Examining nitrogen moieties showed that NO3 formed in different amounts depending on the molecular structure of the treated surface. None of the pristine films contained nitrogen and only some contained oxygen, indicating that the precursors for this surface-bound NO3 originate from the gas phase.
This work has been submitted for publication.

 

  7 comments for “Elliot Bartis Interview

  1. Richard Jefferson
    August 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    Thank you for providing a forum for fellow scientists to discuss ideas and offer encouragement to others. I think this has the potential to be the “next big thing!”

    I also like how you allow us to see that scientists also have lives outside of the lab.

    I really enjoyed this interview. Dr. Bartis seems to be a real down-to-earth person. I for one would love to learn how to make soft pretzels. I already know how to eat them, though:)

  2. Daphne Pappas
    August 20, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Thanks, Richard.

  3. Mohan Srinivasarao
    August 20, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Thank you Dr. Bartis for sharing your exciting results. Which journal was this submitted to? I would like to read the full article when it is published.

  4. Elliot Bartis
    August 20, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you for your interest!

    Richard, I use a recipe developed by Alton Brown. It is here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe.html

    Mohan, I am very excited about this work. It was submitted to a topical issue in European Journal of Physics D titled “Recent Breakthroughs in Microplasmas” with guest editors K. Becker, J. Lopez, D. Staack, K.D. Weltmann, and W. Zhu. I also submitted a paper about NO3 and its correlation with biological activity in Plasma Processes and Polymers. Keep an eye out for that one too.

  5. Ying Bao
    August 23, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Dear Elliot,

    I enjoyed your interview very much, thank you!
    I started my PhD work about a year ago and for 6 months now my experimental results are not so good.
    I am afraid that I will not be able to finish my PhD if I don’t get good results and publish papers.
    In your opinion, what should I do?

    Kind Regards,

    Ying

    • Elliot Bartis
      August 29, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Hi Ying,

      Daphne makes many good points. Earning a Ph.D. is not easy! Every project is different, but there is some advice that helps across the board.

      1) Talk with your advisor, other mentors, or more experienced graduate students. They have lots of experience. It is always useful to bounce ideas off others too.
      2) Until something has been ruled out, it may be a possible confound. For example, in plasma processing, an experimental result may change on a dry, warm day compared to a rainy day. Keep track of everything and I mean EVERYTHING.
      3) Use your lab notebook more. The lab notebook can be much more than just a record of your experiments. Use your lab notebook to write out questions you have. Then write down possible answers. Come back to these questions periodically. Science and engineering research is about asking the right questions, so ask away! Finally, don’t be afraid to question something you did. YOU should be the biggest skeptic about your results.
      4) If you have any doubts about an experiment, throw it out. It is very tempting to continue the experiment to save time and analyze the data, but this may ultimately just confuse you.
      5) As Daphne said, consult the literature. I find a lot of motivation by reading about what other researchers in my field have done. Read your papers critically. Ask questions and think about how your work could advance the other work.
      6) When you find an interesting result, keep going. You really have to put in the time.
      7) Make sure that you are doing an experiment in the best way. As I already mentioned, bounce an idea off another graduate student or post-doc.

      Also, remember you are only 1 year into your Ph.D. You may find that you are constantly asking other students questions. Soon, other student will come to you with questions and you will have the answers.

      Good luck!

  6. pappasdd
    August 25, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Ying,

    I’ll give you my $0.02. We all had our ups and downs conducting research. Experiments can go wrong for many different reasons: the lab conditions (humidity levels, temperature, etc) might have changed, there might be some source of contamination….
    It’s hard to provide advice without knowing the details but I’m sure that a discussion with your advisor will help. Also, it always helps to look at the literature to gain more information.

    Stay positive and keep trying!

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