When Kim Gliebe started her PhD program in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, it was a bit of a homecoming. Not only had the University of Dayton graduate grown up in Mentor—about half an hour east of campus—but she also had already conducted research at the university.

As a high school student, Gliebe worked in Assistant Professor Emily Pentzer’s chemistry lab on campus researching photovoltaics as part of a class offered through her school on research.

“It was empowering to work on such high-level research at such a young age and it allowed me to understand what research involves,” she said.

But that was only the start for Gliebe, who recently was awarded a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship for 2019. Selected by the Department of Defense for the fellowship for her proposal, titled “Processing and Properties of Single Crystal Thin Film Layered Oxides,” Gliebe is one of about 200 honorees out of nearly 3,000 applicants. The fellowship will cover three years of tuition, a monthly stipend and yearly funds for health insurance for Gliebe.

Gliebe’s research involves making very thin, crystalline films and determining how well they conduct electricity and ions. This research has applications in batteries and catalysts and could potentially be used for wearable technology.

Other research pursuits

Gliebe’s decision to study engineering is rooted in an interest in renewable energy technology. After her stint as a high school researcher at CWRU, she decided to go into chemical engineering. But as she started taking classes, she realized materials science ultimately was a better fit and decided to further pursue the subject in her graduate studies.

“There’s so many different ways you can go with a career in materials science, and you’re working on really top-notch technology,” Gliebe said. “I think that’s really just what fascinated me the most about it—just how much we learn and how much we can utilize that for so many aspects of the world, and specifically in my goal of working with renewable energy technology.”

While an undergraduate student, Gliebe had several hands-on experiences with research, including internships with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Dayton Research Institute and Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

“Those were all huge opportunities to me that helped define my career path,” she said.

She was drawn to CWRU in part because of a thin film deposition machine at the university. Here, she works under the direction of Alp Sehirlioglu, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, in the Electro-ceramics Group.

Now, Gliebe believes receiving her new fellowship will lead to even more opportunities, including connections through networking and increased freedom in her research pursuits.

Learn more about Gliebe with this week’s five questions.

1. What’s next on your reading list?

For my birthday, I was gifted a book based on [Stranger Things] called Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond. After I finish that, I’d like to read a book recommended to me called Dune [by Frank Herbert]. I’m excited to read that—I love reading.

2. Do you consider yourself an early bird or a night owl?

Easily an early bird. I love being up in the morning.

3. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I like to sing. I’m not in a group or anything, but it’s something I like.

4. What do you think is the most beautiful spot in Cleveland?

If you include the Greater Cleveland area, I would say South Chagrin Reservation. It’s gorgeous, and you should totally try and get out if you can. But if you don’t consider that, I always love watching the sunset over Lake Erie. A cool place to do that is Flats East Bank.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

A lot of people are really motivated here. And, in my department, we all work together pretty well and we try to be pretty social. I was a little bit worried about that as a graduate student because we can sometimes be to ourselves but it’s been really nice engaging with everyone.