Undergraduate Research

Hibatullah Shaalan '25

OUR Featured Researcher: Hibatullah Shaalan '25

Hibatullah Shaalan
Photo credit: Jacob Strauss

Hibatullah Shaalan (she/her) is majoring in 3-2 Engineering. She is conducting mentored research under Professor Zeb Page. Her project is titled “Precision and Accuracy of Analysis Using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometry".

Please describe your project: 

We used a Scanning Electron Microscope-Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer (SEM-EDS) to develop a method of achieving high accuracy for in-situ chemical analyses using different beam conditions and X-ray count rates. The SEM-EDS is used to analyze chemistry at the micrometer scale in fields such as material science, earth science, chemistry and engineering. The process of elemental analysis by SEM-EDS works by using the electron beam to excite X-rays from the target material and then measuring the energy and intensity distribution of X-ray photons with  the EDS detector.    

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

My research focuses on utilizing a Scanning Electron Microscope-Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer to develop an efficient method of collecting and analyzing chemistry at the microscopic scale with X-rays. I have been developing tests for data reliability using the system at Oberlin College and comparing its precision and accuracy with other more established laboratories.

Why is your research important?

Quantitative analysis by EDS has long been viewed with suspicion by many analysts. Our research is important because we are working on a method that would demonstrate that Oberlin’s system can provide precise and accurate analyses of minerals and compounds. This could help other institutions and scientists achieve reliable data.    

What does the process of doing your research look like?

Most of my days are spent in the SEM lab, carefully setting up the SEM, prepping samples, collecting data using the Oxford program and analyzing it using NIST and excel.

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field?

Our analysis showed that changes in count time between 15-60 seconds do not improve precision and accuracy for the Oberlin EDS system

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I presented at the Oberlin College Research Symposium in Spring 2022.

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to want to seek out research experiences in college?

As a STRONG scholar I got the opportunity to conduct research with my mentor Zeb Page. I was curious what the research field would be like and how I can contribute meaningfully through research. This drove me to continue my winter term research throughout the spring semester and even be involved in a new research project over the summer.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

I have a passion for gaining knowledge and finding new things especially in STEM, so my favorite thing about research is getting results regardless of whether that means something worked or didn’t. My favorite thing about this project is being able to meaningfully contribute to the scientific field with methods to use for future research. I also love working with Zeb Page and learning more about chemistry and geoscience.   

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?     

Working with Zeb was the best first research experience a person could have. I was able to take control of my research while also having someone to rely on when I needed help. I also got the opportunity to travel to the University of Michigan and learn more about Zeb’s research as well as other student researchers’ projects.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?   

I was able to build my research experience and learn to use a widely used instrument in many fields of science, and programs to analyze chemistry.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?      

Reach out to a professor or someone in the department and express your interest in their research. The professors here are so kind and encouraging and would love to have students involved no matter your experience and knowledge. It doesn’t hurt to try!