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!