2018 Governor General’s Gold Medal Recipient
Big achievement working with tiny things
Elizabeth Skoropata has made a big impression for her work on tiny things. She is this year’s recipient of the Governor General’s Gold Medal, awarded for outstanding achievement at the doctoral graduate level, at Spring Convocation 2018.
Skoropata’s research has been focused on nanomaterials, typically substances and things that are 1/1000 the width of a human hair. She’s currently working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee with the Materials Science & Technology Division, Thin Films and Nanostructures Group.
She says: “My work is focused on understanding what happens when we take two very different nanomaterials and layer them. The interface created by the combination – the boundary between two materials – can create very interesting physical behaviours which we could not create using either of the individual layers.”
Skoropata explains: “A very simple analogy would be to say that if we shrunk ourselves down to the nanoscale, and combined a ‘nano’ blue Lego block with a ‘nano’ yellow Lego block, we would be surprised to find that the combination looked red. We would be even more excited if there were no red blocks that existed on their own!”
Although Skoropata technically graduated with her doctorate in physics last fall, she still qualified for the 2018 Governor General’s Gold Medal because of her outstanding academic standing, and is coming back to Winnipeg to receive her award.
“I really had no choice in the matter. My parents told me I had to be here,” she laughs.
Although driven by her passion for her subject, Skoropata understands that a good work and home life balance is important in her life.
“I try to maintain a mindful attitude and enjoy the experiences I have in the moment,” she notes. “That may be working late in the lab finishing experiments, or it may be spending an afternoon walking my dog, or spending time with family and friends. Mostly, my favourite relaxing hobby is simply to enjoy the outdoors – even in winter. Despite the notorious Winnipeg weather, I have to admit that I missed having a winter during my first year in Tennessee.”