Interview with the winner of the honorable mention of the 2014 CAPES award for best thesis in the field of Materials.


Augusto Batagin Neto

The honorable mention of the Award 2014 for best Thesis in the field of Materials granted by CAPES (the Brazil´s Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education) was given to Augusto Batagin Neto for his doctoral thesis, “Simulation of the spectroscopic and structural properties of organic materials for application in devices”, defended in 2013 in the São Paulo State University (UNESP). The research was advised by Professor Carlos Frederico de Oliveira Graeff.

The result  of the Capes Award 2014 was released in early October. The award ceremony will be held on December 10, 2014, in Brasília.

Read our interview with Augusto.

SBPMat Newsletter: – Could you tell us briefly about how your interest in science started, and what were the most important moments in your academic career so far?

Augusto Batagin Neto: – My interest in science started at an early age, since I was a child I was interested in studying “phenomena” associated to natural sciences. I remember that my sister and I used to try and catalogue different species of ants, according to the size of their bodies and other characteristics. I always received a lot of encouragement from my parents and siblings, in my family life there was always an environment that called for dialogue, arguments, the exchange of ideas, which was, and still is, the basis for my education, in every sense.

Up to this moment, there were many moments that I consider very important for my career, first of which was deciding to enroll in the undergraduate course of Physics. I chose the Physics course exactly because it used to be the hardest subject for me during High School (I believe the lack of actual graduates in Physics teaching it in the public education system was one of the main reasons for my initial struggle). A second major moment was starting my research initiation in UNESP at Bauru. By the end of the second semester, Professor Francisco Carlos Lavarda, from the UNESP Physics Department, invited me to enter a training course that was mainly intended to prepare students in the first years of their undergraduate studies to make and interpret electronic structure calculations. We started the activities, and then, I was granted my very first scholarship from the São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP). In my opinion, the support offered by such an excellent development agency, especially in this field, is vitally important to encourage the production of new human resources in research, and so it was in my case.

Important moments are not always the easiest. A third moment I consider extremely important in my career/education was conducting all my Master’s studies without any scholarship whatsoever. In the occasion I took and passed a public exam held by the State Department of Education of São Paulo to work as a basic education teacher, so I was both preparing my Master’s and teaching in the public education system. I completed all mandatory subjects for the Master’s during my first year in order to conduct the research more calmly in the city where I had to hold the teaching position.

There is no doubt that another moment of great importance was starting my doctoral studies with Professor Carlos Frederico de Oliveira Graeff, from UNESP -Bauru Physics Department, as my advisor, under the graduate program in Materials Science and Technology. During that time I discovered different theoretical and experimental issues and could mature as a researcher.  Still during my doctoral studies, I had the opportunity to hold a scholarship from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUe), in the Netherlands, advised by Professor Peter Arnold Bobbert, an experience that enabled me to be acquainted with different simulation techniques and complement my basic training.

The last moment I consider important was being hired as an assistant professor in the UNESP Experimental Campus at Itapeva. I was born in this city and now have the chance to ensure that my work is able to help bringing human resources and technology to this region.

SBPMat Newsletter: – Why did you start to do research in the field of Materials?

Augusto Batagin Neto: – I was introduced to the field of Materials during my research initiation, engaged in the study of biomolecules, while in my Master’s I started studying the structural and optical properties of polymers, and then, in my doctoral studies, I expanded my research field to examine transport and magnetic properties of organic materials.

I always found the use of simulation tools for the study of materials properties interesting, because I believe that such inquiries may bring major scientific contributions, both in regard to basic science (discussing new processes/related phenomena) as from a technological perspective (proposing materials/devices with improved properties).

SBPMat Newsletter: – In your opinion, what is the main contribution of your award-winning thesis?

Augusto Batagin Neto: – Generally speaking, the series of studies presented in my thesis contribute to different areas involving the application of organic materials in the manufacturing of devices.

In regard to the study of dosimetric systems based on organic polymers solutions, the results allow us to identify which structural and electronic properties are desirable in high sensibility systems.

As for the study of synthetic melanins, the work points out what is the source of the paramagnetic centers observed in those systems, which may deeply influence the transport properties of said biomaterial.  In addition to that, the reactivity study provides information about the macrostructures that are most likely to be observed, a very controversial topic in the existing literature.

Using electronic structure calculations, it was also possible to suggest the occurrence of light-induced conformational changes in iridium complexes.  These compounds are extensively deployed in the manufacturing of light-emitting devices, although they usually display a very short life cycle. Our results suggest that structural changes may arise from optically activate processes, followed by a charge transfer, indicating a possible route for the degradation of said complexes.

To conclude, the study also counted with simulations, aiming to model the experiment with electrically detected magnetic resonance by means of two different approaches: equivalent circuit and “drift-diffusion” equations. The results obtained allow us to better comprehend what are the effects to be expected from the occurrence of different resonant entities in the system. This result could, in principle, be used to distinguish spin-dependent transport properties related to electrons and holes in semiconductor devices.

SBPMat Newsletter: – What were the criteria that guided you to do a research recognized nationwide for its quality (the award-winning thesis)? To what factors do you attribute such achievement?

Augusto Batagin Neto: – The initial ideia was to comprehend a series of experimental phenomena under a more fundamental point of view, all directly or indirectly related to the application of different materials in optoelectronic devices. One of the criteria guiding the research was precisely to try and go a little further beyond the phenomenological description of the studied processes.

I attribute the success of the research to several factors, among which I highlight the atmosphere of intense scientific discussion in our group, led by Professor Carlos Graeff.  In that moment, I was the only student in the group whose work was entirely theoretical, and the chance to discuss, propose theories and empirically test them was the distinguishing element in the conducted work, not only for the development of my thesis, but also in partnerships made all along my doctoral studies. I must also mention the assistance given by the POSMAT-UNESP/Bauru graduate studies program, especially Professor Francisco Lavarda, and the financial support received from CAPES and FAPESP, as well as the computational resources made available by GridUnesp as decisive factors for the execution of the project.  Another factor to which I attribute the quality of the work conducted was the chance provided by the TUe-Netherlands scholarship; the scientific discussions I had during that period allowed me to expand the scope of the research I was already conducting and develop a distinguished work.

SBPMat Newsletter: – Would you like to leave a message for our readers who are preparing their own research initiation, master’s and doctoral papers in the field of Materials?

Augusto Batagin Neto: – I believe the constant development of our field of research in the country reflects the great potential of the human resources we hold. In my opinion, the quality of the intellectual work that has been developed in Brazilian laboratories is in no way inferior to the one coming from the international community. In this regard, the message I would like to send to everyone in our community is that we must seek to increase our visibility more and more, diffusing our research not only though traditional means, but also in varied forms of communication, including social media.