Prospective Student FAQ

What kind of research do you plan to do in the coming years?

Our research on perovskite solar cells and dynamic windows is going very well and we will definitely continue it for the next several years. We work closely with our colleagues at CU and NREL, including  Joe Berry, Joey Luther, David Moore, , Axel Palmstom, Mike Toney, Sean Shaheen and Kai Zhu. With their help we hope to develop a deep understanding of perovskite solar cells and use it to make stable tandem solar cells with 30% efficiency and demonstrate that we can print them over at least 30 x 30 cm. We perform about 80 % of our research on solar cells at CU and the rest at NREL.

The windows team recently spun out the company Tynt to commercialize windows based on reversible metal electrodeposition.  At the University we will continue to study the fundamentals of reversible electroplating, develop polymer gel electrolytes, improve large area transparent electrodes and explore new applications for reversible electroplating.

It is hard to predict what new ideas might emerge in the coming years, but they will probably lie at the intersection between organic electronics, perovskite semiconductors, nanotechnology, renewable energy and energy efficiency.  We are exploring the use of perovskites in x-ray and gamma ray detectors and the use of several new photonic technologies to improve the productivity and energy efficiency of greenhouses.

How do you manage the group?

The group is usually broken up into a few subgroups so that each student can be part of a team. The subgroups meet weekly and Prof McGehee meets individually with students as needed, which ranges from weekly to once every few weeks. The subgroups usually take a holistic view of a technology, trying to develop it in every way we can. In addition to making devices that function well, we take long-term durability and cost modeling very seriously to make sure that we are creating something that industry will be able to scale. Prof. McGehee provides opportunities for students to engage with industry both so that they understand what is needed for a technology to be successful and so they know what it would be like to work in industry.

How many students will you be taking this year and how do people join the group?

Mike typically takes two new PhD students each year.

From which departments will you take students?

Mike is a Professor in Chemical Engineering at the University of Colorado and the Associate Chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Program.  He has a joint appointment in the Physics Department.  He could take students from either of those departments, or even from Chemistry,  Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering.  He has advised many students with undergraduate degrees in those six majors over the last 20 years.


What do you look for when you are selecting students?

While I like to see that a prospective student has done well in their courses at a strong undergraduate institution, there are other factors that I look for as well. I look for candidates with extensive research experience and strong recommendation letters from their supervisors. I also look for candidates that have excelled in extracurriculars, such as sports, music or service to charities or environmental organizations. I particularly like candidates who have demonstrated leadership and have excellent communication skills. I look for candidates who would love to do science even if it had no application, but who choose to devote their career to something that will make the world a better place.

Members of the group have very different skill sets. Some are extremely good at using numerical methods for modeling, others have a strong background in traditional materials science topics such as thin film deposition and characterizatoin, a few have chemistry backgrounds and specialize in  synthetis of materials,  while others excel at building and using complex lab equipment that enable the group to do things that have never been done before.

Do you advise undergraduates?

We typically have a couple of undergraduate interns during the school year and four during the summer.  We prefer to take on students during the school year if they can commit to spend at least one summer working full time with the group.  We are much more likely to take on students from outside the University of Colorado if they are selected as a SULI intern at NREL or for the Chemical Engineering summer research experience program.  Our ability to host undergraduates is slightly reduced during the pandemic since we cannot have as many people in the lab and it is harder to train new people.