Ward Beecher Hall can be a little difficult to navigate, but the more you explore, the more treasures you will find. Tucked away on the first floor are Dr. Snjezana “Snow” Balaz and her new Surface Science Lab.
Dr. Balaz, who is originally from Zagreb, Croatia, started at YSU last fall. During her short time on campus so far, she has acquired new equipment, set up a new lab, and has taught various classes, which is a lot to do in such a short amount of time!
Dr. Balaz graduated from Northland College in Ashland, WI with her bachelor’s degree in Physics. After her bachelor’s degree, she moved to a slightly larger city to attend and graduate with her master’s degree in Physics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She stayed at UNL for her Ph.D., which is in Chemical and Materials Engineering, and some of her post-doctoral work. While at UNL, Dr. Balaz worked as a researcher, as well as taught classes at UNL, Nebraska Wesleyan, and Southeast Community College. Dr. Balaz also completed similar post-doctoral work at The Ohio State University and the University of California, Riverside, where, in addition to research, she mentored other students from all levels: high school, undergraduate, graduate, and other post-doctoral students.
During her time at OSU, Dr. Balaz fell in love with Ohio. She enjoys being in the middle of the country because it has so much to offer. Dr. Balaz liked that it was east, but not so far as to have the attitude that goes along with the east coast. She and her partner lived in Ohio for three and a half years before she accepted the position at YSU. Because YSU is so diverse, it offered her the perfect opportunity to continue to research and teach at the same time.
Dr. Balaz’s favorite part of teaching is raising people’s Physic’s IQs and being a role model in the STEM fields. She also enjoys interacting with students and creating strong scientists and thinkers.
“I just want people to be scientifically literate,” Dr. Balaz says. “Not everyone in our classes is going to be a physicist or an engineer, but maybe instead a politician, or really anything. If you become the president you need to know some science.
Dr. Balaz is also passionate about her research in condensed matter physics and in the field of surface science. Her research has focused on the structure of surfaces of thin films, semiconductors, and nanoclusters. In her lab, she and other student researchers take samples and put them in the Ultra High Vacuum (UHV) Chamber that is housing the X-Ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (XPS), which is a surface science technique with which we investigate elemental, chemical state, and structural and electronic properties of materials. Companies from around the area send samples to be analyzed in the lab.
The Surface Science Lab is not the only place that Dr. Balaz spends her time. Last semester, Dr. Balaz taught a course in Classical Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics. Dr. Balaz, in addition to her research in the lab, is teaching two sessions of general physics; she is also excited to be able to teach graduate level courses next semester in Materials Engineering.
When Dr. Balaz isn’t in her lab or the classroom, she enjoys working with her partner to train their dogs in R+ (Positive Reinforcement). She also enjoys grilling, cooking, reading, and finding the nearest source of coffee.