Summer interns' lab work underway

The Summer Scholars in materials science and engineering have settled on their research projects and lab assignments. The interns, co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, faced difficult decisions to choose labs after hearing enticing faculty presentations and taking lab tours.

Luke Soule found all the possible projects interesting, but has honed in on electrochemistry, choosing to work in Department of Materials Science and Engineering Professor Yang Shao-Horn’s Electrochemical Energy Lab (EEL). During a tour of the lab, graduate student Karthik Akkiraju presented several research projects on the role of catalysts in lowering the energy needed to stimulate electrochemical reactions in energy devices. Akkiraju says Shao-Horn looks for students who are excited about the work and encourages students to be independent and to work together as a community. He also emphasizes the family-like atmosphere of the group. “At EEL, you never work alone,” Akkiraju says.

Stephanie Bauman has chosen to work in Assistant Professor Luqiao Liu’s lab, after listening to electrical engineering and computer science graduate student Joseph T. Finley explain how he uses processes such as electron sputtering and ion milling to make magnetic thin films. The lab is developing new magnetically switchable materials for computer memory. “It seems to be mostly focused toward physics which is my major and more so than a lot of the other bio or chem projects,” Bauman says.

Alexandra Oliveira has chosen to work under Fikile R. Brushett, the Raymond A. (1921) and Helen E. St. Laurent Career Development Professor of Chemical Engineering, on redox flow batteries. ‘”Right now I’m working on the permeability of different microstructures for carbon electrodes and I’ll be attempting to electrograft molecules onto the electrodes to change their chemical properties for aqueous and non-aqueous flow batteries,” Oliveira says.

Summer Scholar Grace Noel is working in the lab of Charles and Hilda Roddey Career Development Professor in Chemical Engineering William A. Tisdale, on a project to make and study metal halide perovskite nanoplatelets. These platelets, which are like flat quantum dots, are sometimes just over one-half of a unit cell in thickness, and their color can be adjusted by altering their composition.

Ben Canty is involved in a project to develop a catalyst for breaking down lignins in plant biomass into industrially useful chemicals like benzene, working in the lab of associate professor of chemical engineering Yuriy Román. “I’m mixing in stuff in a tiny little batch reactor, putting it on a heater on a shelf, watching it so it doesn’t explode, centrifuging it, and then running it on gas chromatographs and mass spectrometers,” Canty explains.

NanoStructures Laboratory postdoc Reza Baghdadi impressed Summer Scholar Saleem Iqbal while explaining how Professor Karl Berggren aims to develop superconducting nanowires made of niobium nitride for reducing data processing energy consumption. In the Berggren lab, Iqbal is getting a chance to learn different fabrication skills, such as photolithography and electron beam lithography, and thin film deposition and etching processes, with optical and electrical studies at liquid helium temperatures of about 4.2 kelvins.

AIM Photonics Academy interns were matched separately to their projects. Stuart Daudlin is working on statistical modeling of photonic device variations with Duane Boning, the Clarence J. LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering. Ryan Kosciolek is working on nonlinear photonic devices with Microphotonics Center Principal Research Scientist Anuradha Agarwal. Summer Scholars attend regular weekly or bi-weekly lab group meetings. Larger groups have dedicated subgroups as well that meet regularly.

The internships are supported in part by the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program. Participants will present their results at a poster session the last week of the program, which runs from June 15 to August 5.

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