APSU student talks IRES research experience in France during senior year
Clarksville, TN (12/11/2023) — Anna Sheets is a former Austin Peay State University (APSU) student who spent a portion of her undergraduate senior year researching novel multi-component chalcogenide glass in Ren, France, through the International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program.
Sheets earned her bachelor's degree from APSU in engineering physics and is currently a PhD student studying two-dimensional metals at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG) at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nano-Engineering (JSNN).
The IRES program facilitates learning opportunities for students traveling abroad through a collaboration of three European universities: the University of Rennes I in France, the University of Rzeszow in Poland and the University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic. Each of these institutions specializes in various aspects of nano and glass technology.
Students from Austin Peay, representing the departments of physics, engineering, astronomy, chemistry, biology and geosciences, participate in this collaborative initiative. Their research focuses on providing a deeper understanding of amorphous materials at the nanoscale to uncover how these materials' unique properties can be used for advanced applications, such as optical computing, photonics and bioglasses.
"IRES is an amazing chance for people to research abroad in France and other countries," Sheets said. "You learn a lot, and you meet many new people from different backgrounds and cultures. You experience those different cultures and eat many fantastic foods while researching. That's the best thing in the world."
During the program, Sheets encountered diverse and impactful learning opportunities that enhanced her educational experience. For instance, she attended master's thesis defenses, engaged in research opportunities, participated in hands-on assignments, gained exposure to lab work and much more.
"There were plenty of opportunities for learning outside of what we were learning," Sheets said. "And I took it. I knew that I wanted to learn."
Moving forward, Sheets hopes to use what she learned from the IRES program to her advantage, translating the concepts into real-world solutions. Once she finishes her PhD in 2027, she hopes to continue gaining hands-on experience before she pursues education, teaching engineering students at the collegiate level.
"I want to go into industry for a while because I think that's a precious point of view to get before you become a professor," Sheets said. "Then, I would like to become a professor to teach the next generation of engineers. If I don't go out there and get the experience firsthand, I can't tell the students, 'Hey, here's what this is how it is' if I don't know."