Spotlight on Shawn Decker

Shawn Decker wears many hats throughout the day. He's a graduate student, a scientist, a veteran, a father and a husband. The one thing for sure is that he pursues each of these roles with total passion.

Shawn began his career by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. It was an experience that shaped his early adult life and taught him a great deal about leadership. Toward the end of his enlistment, he married and made a plan to pursue a career in forensics. After he left the service, he entered Western Oregon University on a Montgomery GI bill, but in his first chemistry course he knew he'd found his true calling. He switched majors and graduated with a B.S in chemistry. After graduation, he began working at Purity Laboratories in Lake Oswego as an analytical chemist. Despite working in his chosen field, he still had a long list of scientific questions that he wanted to answer, and he knew he needed further study to be in a position to satisfy that desire. This led him to graduate school at Oregon State University, where he landed in Doug Keszler's laboratory.

Shawn's Center research focuses on aqueous processing of hafnium-based thin films. Here, he finds new ways of controlling the growth and structure of hafnium oxide–based thin films from spin coating by utilizing doping techniques, controlling dehydration and using radiation-induced condensation methods coupled with ion exchange. Beyond his attempts to understand and control the chemistry of these materials, his work also contributes to fields of study in nanopatterning and lithography, dielectric materials for thin film transistors, and optical coatings.

Shawn also leverages his talent as a communicator and his passion for science as an Informal Science Education (ISE) Fellow in the Center. In addition to his research, he designs, constructs and develops demos to communicate the science of the CSMC to the general public. He also serves on the council for the Chemistry Undergraduate Mentoring and Empowerment initiative (ChUME). Shawn explains: "As a father and an active scientist, I feel a personal responsibility to propagate and improve scientific literacy. This is my professional passion in life."

Shawn embodies the way the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry functions as not only a research facility, but also a hub to disseminate scientific information and to increase scientific understanding in the community and in the world.

Are you a veteran interested in STEM? Check out this infographic to see if you’re eligible for special funding.