Curiosity creates…less interference

Posted on September 03, 2020

You might have heard that Queen’s has a few researchers working on dark matter, including Nobel Laureate Arthur B. McDonald.

The job of studying those little building blocks of the universe we call dark matter starts with having the right detectors. If you use the wrong materials or shapes to make those detectors, the inherent radiation captured within your detectors will throw off your readings.

Lucas Ravkov headshot

Lucas Ravkov (Sc’17, MASc’19) is a graduate student in mechanical and materials engineering, and he will soon be starting his research where he aims to 3D print ultra-low radiation background pure copper into lattice shapes that can help with the detection of dark matter while minimizing interference.

“With the advances in 3D printing, you can manufacture interesting and complicated shapes like lattices which are low weight but offer plenty of support,” he said.

Ravkov’s supervisor is Levente Balogh, assistant professor with Queen’s Engineering and Applied Science and a faculty member with the McDonald Institute.

Prior to beginning his doctorate, Ravkov had completed his master’s in Mechanical and Materials Engineering – also at Queen’s – where he studied how metals change from a liquid to a solid state. It is a bit of a departure from his current studies, but his experience with materials has proved beneficial as it enables him to bring different insights to the project.

“My supervisor is more experienced on dark matter detector side, so we have a good symbiotic relationship on this research project,” Ravkov said. “I found graduate studies different from undergraduate studies in that way – you and your supervisor learn from each other.”

Ravkov is originally from Vancouver and was first exposed to Queen’s during a competitive squash trip to Ontario. He liked the community atmosphere at Queen’s and enrolled in undergraduate studies in engineering physics, later earning the undergraduate thesis of the year. Ravkov also kept his love of squash alive by signing up for the varsity team.

Seeking the opportunity to participate in research and apply his knowledge, Ravkov applied for master’s studies, receiving the opportunity to work with Mississauga-based Magellan Aerospace. As he moved from undergraduate to graduate studies, Ravkov has continued to enjoy the walkable nature of Kingston and its proximity to the water, which reminds him of home. The strong linkages to industry and the picturesque setting made it an easy decision to stay for graduate studies.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Queen’s as a school for graduate studies,” he said. “In particularly, I have found there’s a strong ability here to generate useful connections and tap into opportunities that might not be available otherwise.”

As one example, Ravkov was a part of the Queen’s Rocket Engineering Team (QRET) for two years, providing an opportunity to help design and launch a rocket at the Spaceport America Cup.

With a few years left before his PhD is complete, Ravkov is still determining what he will do once his lengthy sojourn to Kingston is complete. However, his current focus is on landing a job in manufacturing.

For more information on graduate programs in Mechanical and Materials Engineering, please visit the Faculty’s website.