First of all, I am thankful to my family: my mom, dad and my little sister, Atieh, for their unconditional and endless love. If it was not because of their love, support and sacrifices throughout all my life, I could never be where I am now and achieve my goals. My parents always told me to follow my dreams and instilled me with a strong passion for learning and doing anything and everything to put me on a path towards success. They always believed that the best inheritance they could ever give their children is education, as no one could ever steal that away from you. I would love to thank my sister Atieh for always being an inspiration for me to continue to strive to be the best version of myself everyday. You are my role model to always push my limits and never take no for an answer. Although we could not be with each other physically over all four years that I have been in graduate school, we always talked over the phone and internet every single day and talking with them has always been the highlight of my day. I know that no amount of "thank yous" will suffice, but I wanted to make sure you know that I appreciate the varieties of support you have given me. In addition, I would like to thank my aunt, Khaleh Zari (Zahra Abdikhani), for being like an older sister and a very young mom for me, always being kind and supportive.
I would like to thank all faculty members in Hopkins and Sharif University who helped me in my academic career. I would like to thank Professor Meyer for his guidance and support, for letting me work in his lab and do what I love every day. I would like to thank Professor Karlin for his time, encouragement, and wise counsel. I would like Professors Toscano, Goldberg, Dagdigian, Silverstone, and Shingles in Hopkins for teaching me science and for helping me to grow as a scientist. I am also thankful to Professors Shahrokhian, Boghaei, Bagheri, and Jalali in Iran, who helped me to understand the value of basic science and for making chemistry my favorite subject. I am also grateful to my high school teachers: Ms. Emami, Ms. Saberi, Mr Vali, and my parents again who infused my love for chemistry and physical science.
To all my lab-mates who befriended me in my four years in Baltimore, I am very thankful. Special thanks to Dr Shane Ardo who helped me with starting my projects in the lab, Dr Farnum who helped me incredibly with iodide project and taught me all related details, Dr Patrik Johansson who helped me with TiO2 preparation and the work in Chapter 4, Dr Darren Achey for great conversation about all scientific and non-scientific subjects and for proof reading all my writings and applications material and for always being a good listener and giving me thoughtful and encouraging comments; I really appreciate your help. I would like to thank William Ward for great scientific conversation and also proof reading my thesis, Ryan O’Donnell and Ke Hu for helping me get prepared for my talks and for our lunch hours together, and Erinn Brigham for being the coolest girlfriend among all people in chemistry department. In addition, I would like to thank Evan Beauvilliers, Timothy Barr and Brian DiMarco, the newest members of Meyer group.
I am very grateful to my dear friends Narges Ahmidi and her husband Philip Stolka for being my family here in Baltimore. Two of the kindest and nicest people I have ever met who always were ready to help me and made my life much easier and more pleasant. Many thanks for always believing in me and for encouraging me to not give up. Also thanks to your little Athena whose smile always makes my day more pleasant. I am grateful to my dear friends: Nasrin Kazem, Ali Shahrokhi, Noushin Niknafs, Reza Nemati, Mahboubeh Kheirabadi, Brittanie Bartz, Ehsan Basafa, Fatemeh Sobhani, Masoumeh Ghalkhani, Shadi Eshghi, Iraj Hosseini, Ali Afshar, Maryam Moghimi, Anam Ardeshiri, Pezhman and Mona Foroughi, Babak Mohit, Ehsan Jahnagiri, Bahman Afsari, Shahin Sefati, Farhad Pashakhanloo, Amy Grupp, Yalda Hojabri, and last but not least Savita Sharma. Thank you for everything; I just want you to know how much I appreciate you and your friendship. Thank you for being there whenever I needed it and even when I thought I did not need it.
This work is dedicated in loving memory of my grandmother, Ashraf Akhavan, and my uncle Nasser Abdikhani.