This year, the Naughton Fellowship program awarded thirty-one faculty members and students with the opportunity to conduct research at a leading Irish university. Emma Laboe ‘25, one of three students in the College of Arts and Letters to receive this fellowship, joined the Magnetism and Spin Electronics Group at Trinity College Dublin this past summer. Working closely with a postdoctoral student, she focused her project on fabricating thin films and optimizing them for perpendicular magnetic anisotropy, a specific kind of magnetic behavior. During a typical day at the laboratory, Laboe would use x-ray diffraction, x-ray reflection, and atomic force microscopy to measure deposited samples of film before theorizing about the causes of the samples’ exhibited behavior. This routine honed many of Laboe’s technical laboratory skills and provided her with a deep appreciation for the research process.
Prior to this fellowship, Laboe, a physics and gender studies double major, had only applied to astrophysics research positions. When she realized she did not have a practical background in the positions she applied to through the Naughton Fellowship, she was nervous. In retrospect, Laboe values how the fellowship allowed her to step outside of her comfort zone and conduct research in a field she was unfamiliar with, in a country she had never stepped foot into before. At Trinity College Dublin, she had the opportunity to witness types of research and use equipment she would not have access to at Notre Dame. As a result, she discovered she loves working in hands-on labs, and that this type of physics research aligns well with her goals and strengths—the experience overall reinforcing her confidence in her own capabilities. Being in an cross-cultural environment that encourages curiosity, Laboe also formed meaningful connections with the fellow researchers, physicists, and the other people around her.
Laboe found her time in Dublin to be fulfilling outside of the lab as well. The most enriching part of the Naughton fellowship for her was cultural immersion in Ireland. Laboe spent time traveling around the island, engaging with Irish culture and exploring the country’s rich history.
“Some of my fondest memories of Ireland are traveling to Belfast during their Pride celebration, seeing the Giant’s Causeway, and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in West Cork,” Laboe reminisces.
This fall at Notre Dame, Laboe will conduct research on quantum matter, a continuation of the interest she developed in condensed matter physics at Trinity College Dublin. In the upcoming Spring semester, she will study abroad at University College Dublin. While her fellowship has come to an end, Laboe has big plans for the future.
“While in Ireland, I will continue physics research – perhaps with my previous research group,” Laboe says. “I’m thrilled for the opportunity to return to the country that I loved so much and I can’t wait to be back!”