Omar Taleb

Oma Taleb

"It upgrades you to a better version"

College: Engineering
Degree Program: Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
Degree: Doctoral

Why FSU?

I grew up in what is commonly referred to as a “third world country,” where proper education is perceived as a privilege and not a right. My family, on the other hand, never entertained that false notion of education and strived to ensure we got top-quality education, and that took a great toll on both my parents and myself. I graduated from the Lebanese University in Chemical and Petrochemical Engineering. Due to limited opportunities in Lebanon, I moved to the United States of America, where the American dream has blown my mind. I was accepted to Florida State University in the master’s program in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Being part of Florida State University, one of the best universities worldwide, helped me gain valuable insights into research. Being a student, I would like to have a good start, and this reputed university can provide me with more knowledge in my study. Furthermore, Florida State University's continuous effort to contribute to sustainable development truly inspires me. The research taking place in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering (and what motivates it) aligns with my interests and values.

Motivation to pursue a graduate degree

By the end of the fall semester (in my master's) Dr. Locke, the head of the department, was impressed with my performance; he decided to offer me a position as a PhD student. The international reputation of the department attracts a variety of students, and I believed it would be a stimulating environment in which to study at the PhD level. FSU also provides excellent working and recreation facilities for graduate students, which demonstrates the commitment to the graduate student body. The high-level research by the access to high-tech labs, such as the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which cannot be found anywhere else, lead the community for the best. I was excited about starting my PhD and achieving my goals, as a first step. As a student at FSU, the responsibility starts from the beginning: hard work, pressure, and success. During the last week of the first term we had a project on Advanced Transport Phenomena; working hard is always the key to success. After more than five days of continuous work, I earned a top grade on this project. The good news was not only the grade but also that this project is published in the International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer.

Importance and/or impact of research and work

I am in the third year of my PhD, working on the dynamic characterizations of nanoparticle materials in block copolymers (BCPs) for sustainable applications. I was very excited to start working with the Hallinan group on the development of nanotechnology, where one of the objectives is to create new properties by adjusting materials at the nanoscale. Our first target was to control the structure of BCP using different solvent evaporation rates; different structures lead to different properties. I started this project by learning how to cast the BCP membranes of poly(ethylene oxide)-polystyrene (PEO-PS), then how to control the evaporation rate in each membrane. Finally, I learned how to use small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to evaluate the structure of the BCP. The PEO-PS block copolymer is of interest as a battery electrolyte, and as a membrane for water and carbon dioxide separations. Developments in these areas will concern all human beings; so a collaboration with top international companies and researchers will improve and facilitate the development in the nanotechnology field. We had a collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago to conduct time-resolved X-ray scattering at the Advanced Photon Source to complete the data collection for my second manuscript. Also, in spring 2022, I went to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn anionic polymer synthesis at the Center of Nanophase Materials Sciences. Finally, this summer I had the chance to start a collaboration with the University of Bologna in Italy, where we tested the permeation and gas sorption of the carbon dioxide and nitrogen gases through our membranes block copolymer produced in Hallinan Laboratory. In addition to the amazing experience in Italy, I cannot skip the amazing tour I had in Europe. During weekends I visited Venice, Florence, Berlin, and Paris.

Career aspirations

My dream job is to work with NASA to develop polymers for space and astronomy applications. I remain open to a career in academia, which will permit me to pursue my own research ideas and develop the top quality of human resources. I will continue to engage in public service and fight the racist issue to increase the diversity in the American community. Teaching people how to be antiracist is a priority in my career. Also, I am planning to give back by establishing a yearly fellowship grant to assist students in graduate school.

Advice for anyone considering graduate school

To anyone considering graduate school, research has ups and downs, so be ready to expect everything while earning your PhD. Hard work is always rewarded. Celebrate your small achievements, and make sure to be happy with what you are doing!

Accomplishments during graduate career

At FSU, it is an honor for me to be a part of the EESI Program to develop the human resource, undergraduate students, to be ready for graduate school. During Open House hands-on demos, the Tallahassee community came to our lab to see our projects and our achievements. When I saw through this encounter that the broader community is interested in my work and how these achievements reflect on their routine life, this gave me a shot of hope and encouraged me to work hard for the sake of my community.