Physics & Astronomy
B.S., Olin College of Engineering; M.S., Ph. D., Stanford University
Science Center W216
Rebecca BelisleKnafel Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences; Assistant Professor of Physics
Materials scientist developing next-generation solar cells by studying the fundamental properties of novel solution-processed semiconductors.
I’m excited about materials solutions to global challenges. My current research focuses on studying the fundamental properties of solution processed semiconductors with the aim of making more efficient and cheaper solar cells.
For solar panels to work well they need to (a) transfer energy from light to electrons through absorption, (b) extract as many of those excited electrons as possible, and (c) minimize recombination—the process by which electrons lose their energy. In the past five years lead halide perovskites have emerged as promising semiconductors to accomplish each of these crucial energy-generation steps. In my lab, we synthesizes and investigates these lead halide perovskites to understand the limits of their performance as solar cells. Our work focuses on the study of the fundamental properties of these novel semiconductors – including photoluminescence, crystal structure, electron transport, and ionic conductivity – and how those properties relate to solar cell device performance.
As a teacher, I strive to bring my training and perspective as an engineer into my classroom. This year I’m teaching PHYS 107: Principles and Applications of Mechanics in a studio format that emphasizes hands-on learning, real-world applications, and open-ended discussion to get students practicing and applying physics concepts from their first day. I strive to create opportunities for my students that push them to think across multiple disciplines: co-teaching a course that discusses the science, policy, and economics of renewable energy, and developing a solid-state physics class whose topics range from the atomic structure of materials to the end-of-life of electronic devices. I’m broadly interested in pedagogical practices that prioritize student motivation and personal reflection, and bring those methods into my courses.
More broadly, I’m interested in increasing interdisciplinary opportunities for Wellesley students both in and outside of the classroom. While the focus of my work is on materials for photovoltaics, my lab is equipped to support a broad range of projects at the interface of physics and chemistry, and I’m excited to support and engage a diverse group of students in that research. As an Olin College graduate, I’m happy to assist students pursuing engineering applications for their work, whether at Olin, MIT, or at Wellesley.
I loves backpacking and rock climbing, and am learning to forage for mushrooms with my dog Arrow.