Vaidya shares his experience interning with an Astrophysics Science Division team tasked with building an atomic layer deposition system to fabricate thin film multilayer coating needed for x-ray telescopes.

If you want to know how galaxies, stars, and planetary systems form and evolve, then you have probably seen images captured by x-ray telescopes. But have you ever thought about the engineering behind the telescope itself?

Jaykumar (Jay) Vaidya can answer that question, based on what he llearned through his internship at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Vaidya graduated in December 2021, earning a Master of Engineering degree in electrical engineering advised by Nikhil Shukla, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Vaidya joined an Astrophysics Science Division team tasked with building an atomic layer deposition system to fabricate thin film multilayer coating needed for x-ray telescopes. “Because we are building the system from scratch, we can make thin films to mission specification at low cost,” Vaidya said. If their group is successful in creating a reflective coating for the surface of an X-ray mirror, it will be used in space to image gas halos around galaxies.

Astrophysicist Maxim Markevitch served as Vaidya’s project adviser. "Our team is very small and everybody has to do many things, so we are very happy that Jay can work with vacuum hardware and electronics and also write software to operate the film deposition reactor," Markevitch said.

NASA’s Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology II, a cooperative agreement with Southeastern Universities Research Association, supported Vaidya’s internship.

“I am grateful that NASA and Dr. Markevitch took time to visit UVA Grounds to share this opportunity and invite electrical engineering students to apply to the internship program,” Vaidya said.

In addition to the project’s technical rigor, Vaidya learned how to think strategically about project goals. “This internship taught me a lot about the planning process, to go from an engineering drawing to a finished component,” Vaidya said. “If I miss something, there’s no ‘undo.’ I would have to start over, which would waste money and the time of the whole team. I’ve learned that people value my daily updates on my project; I really like the everyday experience of working on-site.”

Vaidya has published three research papers, most recently Nanoscale Devices with Superconducting Electrodes to Locally Channel Current in 3D Weyl Semimetals, published September 2021 in Applied Physics Letters. This co-authored paper reports on research he conducted at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (Mumbai) with Professor Mandar Deshmukh, who specializes in nanoscale and mesoscopic physics in the Department of Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science.

Jay Vaidya at front entrance to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Jaykumar (Jay) Vaidya, a graduate student of electrical engineering advised by Nikhil Shukla, is completing an internship with an Astrophysics Science Division team tasked with building an atomic layer deposition system to fabricate thin film multilayer coating needed for x-ray telescopes.