Photo of Trevor Wavrunek, a senior engineering physics major

As Trevor Wavrunek, a senior engineering physics major, prepares for graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville this May, he credits his experience as an undergraduate researcher with helping him with his next academic goal. “I’m planning to go to grad school and earn a Ph.D. in material science engineering,” he said. “The skills I have learned will transfer directly after I graduate.”

Wavrunek, a Denmark, Wisconsin native, has spent the past three years researching the topic of an alternative to solvent-based microfabrication with Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan, associate professor of engineering physics. They are studying the uses of First Contact Polymer, developed by Dr. James Hamilton, professor of chemistry, and are using it for different instances of microfabrication and cleaning.

“The main thrust of our project is using [First Contact] to remove particulates from a micro-featured surface that has holes in it or features on the micro-scale,” said Wavrunek. “We are also looking at removing organic residues from the surface.”

The third part of the research Wavrunek is examining is a process called lift-off. According to Wavrunek, several microelectronic devices are built of very thin films of metal that act like wires.

“The devices are created using lift-off, so we are investigating the polymer either as an assistance to that or replacement,” he said. “We found when you do the process and use First Contact instead of the solvent, you can create features that have more regular geometries.”

Throughout his collegiate journey, Wavrunek said he has obtained many skills by conducting undergraduate research, from how to better formulate an experiment to enhancing his communication skills. He is also appreciative of the industry events he has been able to attend.

In February, Wavrunek participated in the Innovation in Materials and Manufacturing virtual symposium, presented by WiSys and the Regional Materials and Manufacturing Network. He presented his research at the Student Showcase, where he received first place and a prize of $300.

“This was the first presentation that was entirely of my own doing,” said Wavrunek. “I wrote and prepared the presentation. It’s exciting that I got awarded for it.”

To learn more about the virtual symposium, visit