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Engineering doctoral student Abiola Oloye is on the hunt for better superconducting materials

Story by
Trisha Radulovich
Oloye and Kametani
Doctoral student Abiola Oloye (left) and faculty mentor Fumitake (Tak) Kametani at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee. (Photo: FAMU-FSU Engineering/M Wallheiser)

Abiola Temidayo Oloye is a doctoral student in materials science at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, she received her bachelor’s and first master’s degree from the Southwest State University in Kursk, Russia, in electronic engineering and telecommunications. She also holds a master’s in materials science. 

Oloye’s research focuses on creating better superconducting materials. She works on a team of scientists and students at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) studying Bismuth-2212, a material promising for improving the performance of superconducting magnets and electronic devices. 

In the future, Oloye hopes to contribute to the study of superconductivity through active research and also to mentor young students interested in the field.

Abiola Oloye, a doctoral student in materials science at Florida State University and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. (Photo: FAMU-FSU Engineering/M Wallheiser)

How did your journey bring you to the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering?

After working in information technology in my home country of Nigeria, I became interested in materials science. Arizona State University had an interesting program and got my master’s before coming to Florida State University and the college for my doctorate. The program at ASU was grueling but gave me the foundation needed for continuing my education at FSU. When I came to the beautiful city of Tallahassee, I was very impressed with the people I interacted with and was very excited at the possibility of researching at the MagLab.

Tell a little about yourself and your family.

I am the last of four children and the only engineer in my family. I have a sister who is a medical doctor. My parents spent their professional lives in the banking industry. When I showed an interest in STEM, my parents were shocked and confused. Thankfully, they have been supportive of my dreams, even when they do not understand them! I am forever grateful that they 100% encouraged me to pursue my dreams. We are from a patriarchal society where women are wives, mothers and homemakers. My parents gave me wings so I could fly. 

Describe your research.

My research focuses on creating better materials to power superconducting magnets and electronic devices. Superconductors are materials that carry electricity with zero electrical resistance. However, the trade-off for these incredibly high currents is that superconductors only work at low temperatures (about -452°F). One of the overarching goals in superconductor research is to find materials that “superconduct” efficiently at higher temperatures. 

My work focuses on a material we call Bismuth-2212 or Bi-2212. I use microscopy to understand processing procedures that affect the material’s microstructure. It determines how current is transported, along with the material.

What inspired you to go into this field of study?

I have always been passionate about sustainable sources of energy. It’s one of the ways that we can preserve our planet for ourselves and our future generations. Applications of superconductors are myriad in the way they have improved human understanding and humanity as a whole. An example is their potential use in electrical transmission lines. Superconductors will go a long way toward improving efficiency in electric current transmission and distribution. 

What is the most exciting thing about your research?

The most remarkable thing about the research is the opportunity to see the complete life cycle from powder to wire to the magnet. I also have the chance to use incredible characterization tools like a scanning electron microscope in my work. Superconductivity is a relatively new field when compared to other scientific disciplines. The newness provides the opportunity to network with the revolutionaries who pioneered the field at conferences and workshops. It is an experience not to take for granted.

Have you received any fellowships or awards? 

Yes, I received a fellowship for the first year of my doctorate from the Materials Science and Engineering program at FSU. It funded a one-year rotation across three labs, and it provided the opportunity to explore multiple paths. This helped me as a new graduate student to broaden my horizons. I experienced the possibilities of research as an international student even without “adequate” research experience. It was the only way I could have discovered the beautiful world of superconductivity. Without the fellowship, I would not have had, I think, the courage to try something new. 

What kind of impact will your research have?

Our biggest goal is to make high-field magnets from Bi-2212 round wires. Making magnets out of Bi-2212 will mean more powerful MRI machines, cheaper access to medical diagnostics, better nuclear magnetic resonance machines and more powerful particle accelerators. The research will take science and engineering to greater heights. The possibility of magnetic levitation trains will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially if they are accessible. The possibilities are endless.

What do you hope to accomplish?

My short-term goal is to graduate with my Ph.D., and my long-term goal is to pass on the knowledge. I am very passionate about mentoring and teaching, and I hope to serve in that capacity one way or another. I hope we successfully push Bi-2212 to its full potential of becoming the prime high-temperature superconducting material of choice for use in high-field magnets.

What’s your background and do you have any advice for others going into this field?

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be an engineer. I read a lot as a child. I do not know what particular influence this had on me, but I believe it helped me aspire to more than I saw around me. Reading helped me realize that the world was full of opportunities. It also helped that I excelled in math and physics. I had the proper guidance toward where I wanted to go, and I had an enabling and supportive family.

Above all else, I believed in what I wanted and was ready to do the work to get there. My advice would be to take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way, and work hard. In the absence of encouragement, never stop believing in your abilities and your goals.