Honors chemistry major Noah Mason has caught the research bug.

The East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, resident recently received the James Flack Norris and Theodore William Richards Undergraduate Summer Scholarship from the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) to conduct research on plasmonic nanoparticles under the guidance of Chemistry Asst. Prof. Michael Ross.

“I’m fully in on conducting research,” says Mason, who is also a learning assistant for Chemistry I and Chemistry II, as well as a tutor. “I really love it.”

Mason took the dive into research after receiving a stipend from the Kennedy College of Sciences Science Scholars program during the summer of 2021. He worked alongside Ross, who taught Mason the ins and outs of research.

“Dr. Ross has been nothing short of amazing for me,” says Mason. “I feel so lucky to be in that lab with him.”

Mason zeroed in on a research topic during his junior year with the help of Ross. He says they “talked about some cool directions” they could go in before settling on plasmonic nanoparticles — metallic particles that have unique physical properties. 

Through an Honors College Fellowship, Mason worked on a reaction between gold nanoparticles and post-transition metals that included tin, indium, bismuth and gallium. He, along with the rest of Ross' research group, discovered that by adding post-transition metals, the plasmon absorption of gold nanoparticles is shifted toward higher energies of light.

“This essentially makes the nanoparticles interact with higher-energy light, which is not typical of traditional plasmonic materials like gold,” says Mason.

Funding from the NESACS is helping him further this research over the summer. He will continue to characterize these bimetallic nanoparticles as well as work on applications for them. Some ideas he plans on trying out include using the nanoparticles as catalysts for renewable energy and making plasmonic solder with them for electronics connections.

“Research is so much fun. I love being in the lab,” says Mason. “It’s a lot of work, and we spend a lot of time in there, but none of it feels like a job.”

Mason came to UMass Lowell unsure of his future but says he is grateful he found his passion for scientific research.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I came here. I just picked chemistry because I always liked science,” he says. “After being here and meeting some really cool professors, it just kind of stuck. I feel really at home in the department.”

His experience at the university has encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D., so he can continue conducting research.

“I just want to keep doing research and see where that goes,” he says.