Dylan Boucher - PostDoctoral Fellow in Minteer Group
My name is Dylan Boucher, and I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA. I began studying chemistry at Allegheny College before moving to the University of Texas at Austin for my Ph.D. in analytical chemistry with Mike Rose. My thesis work involved surface functionalization of semiconductor electrodes, photoelectrochemistry, and interfacial electron transfer kinetics, which introduced me to the vast, wonderful world of electrochemistry. I moved to Utah in 2021 to join the Minteer Lab, where I got the chance to explore both the fundamental and applied sides of electrochemistry and electrosynthesis as a part of the Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry.
What motivates and inspires you?
I read older, classic scientific literature. It can be beautiful to see places where an idea was worked out for the first time or gain new fundamental insight. I recently found a paper from one of my scientific heroes, Jean-Micheal Saveant, where he first derives an equation foundational to the electrochemistry field. It turns out he was a postdoc at the time he worked it out! How’s that for postdoc appreciation?
What interests you most about your research?
What is most interesting about electrochemistry is that it is central to so many fields! From energy science to sensors to synthesis to fundamental measurements, electrochemistry is a powerful way to unite many different disciplines. One of my favorite aspects of scientific research is collaboration with people outside of my field, so it’s a great time to be an electrochemist from that perspective.
What do you wish you had known when you first came to Utah?
A nice down jacket is one of the best investments you can make for the wintertime.
Your favorite University of Utah experience
I’m a big backcountry skier, so the proximity of the mountains to the university means that in the winter, I can get up early and ski before work. At the trailhead at 5 am, in the glovebox by 9 am, that experience of getting to be in nature while also doing research that interests me on the same day is enjoyable!
What research topics being explored interest you the most?
Electrosynthesis! It has opened up a new venue for thinking about electroanalytical techniques and electrochemical behavior. The field is just finding its footing, and there is SO much to do in terms of both fundamental and applied measurements. I’m not a synthetic chemist, but the synthetic community has taught me a lot about what reactions they think are interesting. In turn, I believe there are some fundamental questions in these systems that only analytical electrochemistry can answer!
What do you do for fun outside the lab? How do you handle stress?
I am getting into nature as much as possible. Utah is great for outdoor access. Lots of beautiful mountain and desert terrain within driving distance of the city. Research can be frustrating and takes a lot of your mental capacity; getting into nature and sorting through your thoughts and ideas in a relaxing setting is beneficial.
What advice do you have for prospective postdocs?
Talk to as many people in your prospective group as possible! It gives you important insight into the group dynamic and can also be vital to building collaborative projects faster.
What is the most significant difference between life as a grad student and a postdoc researcher?
For me, the difference is more mentorship responsibilities. As a grad student (most of the time), you are trying to execute your main project, with maybe the assistance of an undergrad mentee or early graduate student. As a postdoc, I’ve found I need to be more responsible for helping graduate students develop and execute their projects, which can require significant mentorship skills. No one wants just to be ordered around, so you need to help students take actual ownership of their projects and incorporate their ideas. It can be pretty challenging, but it also might be the most satisfying part of the job. I think it’s worth it!
What do you plan to do after your postdoc?
Anything that lets me do more electrochemistry! Initially, I wasn’t planning on academia, but I’ve had so much fun building mentor relationships with grad students and undergrads that I’ve begun to take the idea more seriously. However, It still seems like a stressful job!