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Meet Energy Challenge Past Interns: 2011

Garnet Abrams, 2012, Geosciences

Project: Extremely Fine-Grained and Global Measurements of Greenhouse Gases

Organization/Location: Princeton University; Alaska, Colorado and Hawaii

Adviser: Mark Zondlo, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Water vapor is the strongest greenhouse gas, and its distribution and transport in the ­atmosphere require further investigation. During my summer internship, I ­participated with other Princeton researchers in the Highly Instrumented Aerial Platform for ­Environmental Research (HIAPER) Pole-to-Pole Observations (HIPPO) onboard the NSF Gulfstream V research plane. Using the Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) ­hygrometer, we gathered 25 Hz in-situ data during the last two flights. Working with ­Professor Mark Zondlo and graduate student Minghui Diao, I learned to use the ­VCSEL hygrometer by monitoring live data, applying calibrations to the data analysis, and learning the ­calibration methods in the lab between flights. I also traveled to Broomfield, CO (where the plane is based), Kona, HI, and Anchorage, AK for field research and ­instrument maintenance. I also interacted with other scientists and learned about other ­instruments used for this research. With this data, we hope to improve climate models and large scale satellite observations. (See presentation.)

Devika Balachandran, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Balachandran Devika

Project: Patterns of Zooplankton Diel Vertical Migration in the Global Ocean

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Jorge Sarmiento, George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering, Professor of Geosciences, Director, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS); Allison Smith, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Geosciences; Daniele Bianchi, Graduate Student, AOS.

This summer, I conducted research at Princeton in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic ­Sciences on diel vertical migration of zooplankton to determine if there were any emerging global patterns. I used online databases like the Encyclopedia of Life and ­Princeton University’s Library Catalog to compile a list of zooplankton species that ­undergo diel vertical migration and to what depths they are known to migrate. Once I completed some preliminary research, I analyzed the data available on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) online Copepod database ­manually and usedprograms like R and Microsoft Excel. Upon data analysis, I mapped the results spatially using Generic Mapping Tools and temporally using Microsoft Excel. My ­internship also entailed attending a number of seminars and talks, which included the ­exciting 2011 Annual Southern Ocean NOAA Climate Processes Team Meeting. Not only did I learn how to use a lot of useful data analysis programs this summer, but I also learned how to effectively read scientific literature. (See presentation.)

Andrew Budnick, 2013, Geosciences

Project: Oxygen in the North Atlantic: Variability and Measurement

Organization/Location: Princeton University; Iceland, New Jersey and North Atlantic

Advisers: Jorge Sarmiento, George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering, Director, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS); Robert Key, Research Oceanographer, AOS; Stephanie Downes, Postdoctoral Research Associate, AOS.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a critical component of ­global water mass circulation, as the North Atlantic is one of the main locations where surface water sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This summer, I had the opportunity to study the oxygen and other water properties of the North Atlantic, both in ­models at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and at sea on the German research vessel RV Meteor. In the lab, I compiled time series from ­previously measured data from this area to examine annual and decadal variability in water mass properties. On board the ship, I was on the team responsible for measuring oxygen in water samples taken at various points in the water column. The oxygen I measured in samples was used to calibrate electronically measured data ultimately destined for ­further research and online data repositories such as those that I used while in the lab. At the same time, I learned both about these water masses as well as how to carry out ­experimental ­oceanography on board a ship. (See presentation.)

Dana Butnariu, 2013, Computer Science

Project: Toward Green Data Centers for an Energy-Efficient Internet

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Adviser: Mung Chiang, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Director of EDGE Lab

Companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon store their data and offer ­information to clients by employing the use of data centers. As the amount of data stored and the amount of information requested, or in other words, the traffic load, to and from data centers increases each year, so does the demand for energy usage inside these data centers. This summer, during my Energy Challenge internship I tried to address and solve the problem of increasing energy usage inside data centers. I first created a small scale replica of a data center in the EDGE Lab and then I implemented an optimal ­server sleeping policy inside the data center replica. This policy aimed to balance energy ­consumption and request handling delays. The technique I employed would save ­energy by putting unused resources or unused servers inside the data ­center to sleep. Initial approaches generated large energy saving, but had the downside of creating equally large delays in client request handling. Thus I took a new approach and implemented a policy that optimally put servers to sleep and woke them up by ­balancing the trade-off between energy consumption and delay in request handling. In order to implement this new policy and test its validity, I replicated a small data center using servers, laptops, and power-meters in the EDGE Lab. (See presentation.)

Christine Chen, 2013, Geosciences

Project: Toward an Understanding of Earth’s Largest Carbon Isotope Anomaly

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Australia

Advisers: Adam C. Maloof, Assistant Professor of Geosciences; Jonathan M. Husson, Graduate Student, Geosciences

The Wonoka formation, a deposit of Ediacaran-aged (635 - 542 million years ago) carbonate rocks found in South Australia, holds a record of carbon isotopic signatures of ancient oceans. These isotopic signatures suggest a major disturbance to the Ediacaran global carbon cycle—one that dwarfs humanity’s carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. This perturbation has been casually linked to the broadly synchronous radiation of macroscopic ­multicellular ­organisms during the Ediacaran.  As a geology field assistant to Jonathan Husson, a ­graduate student in the Department of Geosciences, I helped advance the research regarding our understanding and interpretations of Earth history’s largest carbon isotope anomaly. Together, we camped in the Australian outback for two months to gather ­geologic field observations of the Wonoka and collect rock samples for isotope analysis. Our fieldwork also dove-tailed with my junior paper, for which I created a geologic map of an ancient sea floor paleocanyon within the Wonoka using high-precision GPS ­equipment. ­Mapping is critical to the interpretation of carbon isotope signals, for we must first ­understand the physical settings in which the carbonates were deposited. Not only have I gained a ­first-hand understanding of the age-old marine landscapes that once covered ­Australia, but I have also acquired field research skills that will become indispensable to me as a future researcher in the geosciences. (See presentation.)

Diana Chin, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: Mode Filtering of a λ ≈ 14 μm Quantum Cascade Laser via Single and Multi-Mode Fibers

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Claire Gmachl, Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering

This summer I worked as an intern in Professor Claire Gmachl’s group in the ­Department of Electrical Engineering. I helped conduct research on improving the beam ­quality of quantum cascade lasers. These lasers can potentially be used in a ­variety of ­portable devices for sensing trace gases in the atmosphere, and can thus be key in ­detecting things like global warming effects or the development of nuclear ­weapons. ­However, in order for their beams to be most effectively focused and utilized, they have to be refined. I worked on trying to reduce the number of interfering ­higher ­order modes of a Quantum Cascade laser by coupling the laser beam through hollow core glass ­waveguides. By ­imaging, graphing, and comparing the intensity profiles of the ­laser light ­before and after the use of different fibers, we were able to find that the use of a single mode fiber was ­effective in filtering out a great deal of the higher order modes. Through my own ­experiences and through the support of the Gmachl group, I feel that I was able to learn a great deal this summer about both my topic and about the research process in general. (See presentation.)

Sanita Dhaubanjar, 2013, Engineering

Project: Study on the Water Systems and Delivery of Water in Kathmandu

Organization/Location: Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Nepal

Adviser: eremy Farrar, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit and Princeton Global Scholars

This summer I worked in the Bio-based and Green Energy laboratory at ­Kathmandu ­University researching various topics in energy recovery from wastewater. I reviewed literature on decentralised wastewater treatment systems for developing ­countries and eventually focused more on anaerobic treatment of wastewater. Through this ­internship, I gained a thorough understanding of wastewater systems and ­analysed the ­failures of wastewater treatment systems that have been implemented in ­developing ­countries,with the goal of identifying suitable treatment methods for ­Nepal. Bureaucratic and ­administrative issues are usually responsible for failure of many ­engineering projects in the third world. However, I realized that in the case of wastewater management, ­technical inefficiencies have also made it hard to develop sustainable wastewater ­treatment projects. Appropriate technologies that are simple, efficient, and easily adoptable by the local community are lacking. While I don’t plan to expand on this project yet, I am interested in looking into wastewater management issues. (See presentation.)

Daniel Dix, 2012, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Project: Collecting and Visualizing Data for Energy Systems Analysis

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Professor Powell, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

This summer, I worked in the Princeton Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis (PENSA), on data visualization and collection for Professor Powell. The main focus of the ­internship was creating a means to observe hour-by-hour load, flow, and generation data for the PJM Interconnections electric grid, which spans from Chicago to North Carolina. I worked with a number of other interns, each of whom had a very important role. Much of my internship involved finding ways to map data from one form to another. In ­particular, I needed to obtain physical location data and connect it to the bus node ID number, which was used in the Unit Commitment model to simulate changes in the network over time. With lots of coding, we were able to create a working visualization program, which will be used next year to perform policy analysis of the Northeast electric grid.

Lauren Edelman, 2014, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project: Investigating a Potential Mechanism of Mercury Uptake in Geobacter Sulfurreducens

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: François Morel, Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences; Yan Xu, Associate Research Scholar, Geosciences

The goal of my research was to develop a protocol to investigate a protein, GSU1338, which could play a role in mercury uptake in the bacterium Geobacter ­sulfurreducens. This ­bacterium is known to methylate mercury; thus, it contributes to the process of ­biomagnifications of methyl mercury, an environmental concern. Understanding the ­process of methylation is important to minimizing the toxic effects of mercury ­contamination. My project was focused on developing a method for over-expressing, isolating, and ­purifying the GSU1338 protein. Specifically, I used Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), a method of amplifying a fragment of DNA, and gel electrophoresis to facilitate the ­construction of a plasmid vector, transformed the plasmid into E. coli, induced transcription, and ­began the isolation and purification of the protein. I learned new experimental techniques, like PCR, gel electrophoresis, and protein gels. I was exposed to scientific literature and gained insights on working independently to develop an experimental procedure. This internship introduced me to the field of environmental science. As a part of a research group, I listened to discussions about advancements in the field, and contributed my own small advancement. This internship has reaffirmed my interest in environmental science and has given me hands on experience. (See presentation.)

Ashish Gupta, 2013, Computer Science

Project: Developing Databases and Models at the Princeton Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis (PENSA)

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Warren Powell, Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Director, Program in Engineering and Management Systems

This summer I worked on a project involving the creation of a model to simulate the movement of power throughout a network grid in the US. This requires understanding the way energy is transmitted from a generation to a load and how a network of supply and demand is constrained. The power grid model ultimately boils down to an optimization problem where we aim to minimize system costs and energy losses. Creating this model, in part, involved managing large sets of data and using machine learning techniques to efficiently parse data input for the model. The immediate goal of the project is to use this model to analyze the way our current network functions, and to create simulations that illustrate the effects of altering parameters, such as the type of energy being delivered. The long-term goal is to eventually determine how we can move towards cleaner forms of energy such as wind. (See presentation.)

William Harrel, 2013, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Project: Energy Grid Modeling

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Warren Powell, Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Director, Program in Engineering and Management Systems

The goal of this project was to create a model of Solar Renewable Energy ­Credits (SRECs) to compute a forward price curve and assess the viability of solar energy, ­especially in Massachusetts. Working with Professor Powell, I created a multi-agent stochastic model and a simulation interface to run with many different input ­parameters. Upon ­completion, we noticed that the design of the credit system led to huge ­uncertainties, and this was discouraging companies from building solar energy. In response to these uncertainties, we worked to design a better system that would be more effective at stimulating growth, while still minimizing the cost for ratepayers and taxpayers. We have recently started working with two people from the Woodrow Wilson School to determine the best way to change our ideas from theory into actual policy. I learned quite a bit about energy systems, modeling, and programming this summer, and I am continuing my work as junior independent work. I had a fantastic time, and as I ­consider future ­summer plans, I will definitely be looking at academic positions so I can have another great experience. (See presentation.)

Brian Huang, 2013, Computer Science

Project: The Viability of Providing Early Warnings for Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Jorge Sarmiento, George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering, Professor of Geosciences, Director, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS); Claudie Beaulieu, Postdoctoral Research Associate, AOS

This summer, while working with Claudie Beaulieu in Professor Jorge Sarmiento’s group in the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, I examined possible ­applications of bifurcation theory to predict tipping points in the Earth’s climate system. In the past, bifurcation theory has been applied, in fields like physics and economics, to analyze changes in the states of systems. In the past decade, some have begun applying it to our terrestrial climate system, proposing metrics to predict catastrophic regime shifts (“tipping points”) in our climate, with the goal of providing early warnings for future ­tipping points. My work involved comparing and evaluating the power of these metrics with an eye towards improving them. Most of my work involved analyzing ­paleoclimate datasets in Matlab, which I have become very comfortable doing. I also experienced firsthand the power of scientific collaboration and learned a great deal about our ­climate history and the academic process. The Sarmiento group is incredibly ­welcoming and supportive. My experiences with them this summer have made me seriously consider climate research in grad school. (See presentation.)

Max Jacobson, 2013, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project: Photochemical Alteration of Dissolved Organic Nitrogen in the Surface Ocean of the North Atlantic

Organization/Location: Princeton University; Bermuda and Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Daniel Sigman, Dusenbury Professor of Geological and Geophysical Sciences; Katye Altieri, Postdoctoral Research Associate; Sarah Fawcett, Graduate Student, Geosciences

This summer, in Professor Daniel Sigman’s laboratory, I constructed an apparatus to investigate the conversion of dissolved organic ­nitrogen (DON) to ammonium, in the presence of sunlight, in Sargasso Sea water. This ­conversion is one theory that may explain the discrepancy between the measured ­efflux of ­ammonia out of the subtropical ocean and the predicted efflux, considering the ­concentration of ammonium in seawater and Henry’s law. My work involved ­designing the apparatus, ­testing the apparatus, acquiring appropriate samples, and measuring the ­concentration of ammonium in various solutions. I learned about the nitrogen cycle, nitrogen isotope ratios (¹⁵N/¹⁴N), and the properties of ­oligotrophic oceanic gyres. In addition, I learned numerous laboratory ­techniques, ­including filter acidification, filter extractions, an orthophthaldialdehyde (OPA) ­fluorescence technique for measuring nanomolar concentrations of ammonium, and acid washing. I also collected and filtered seawater samples during four scientific cruises, and assisted with other oceanographic and atmospheric sampling. In addition to my own research, I learned about other projects in Professor Sigman’s lab and even contributed to them. The Sigman lab is supportive and innovative, and working with them this summer was a rewarding experience. (See presentation.)

Adam Jaffe, 2012, Chemistry

Project: Gas Storage with Metal-Organic Frameworks

Organization/Location: Seoul National University, South Korea

Advisers: Andrew Bocarsly, Professor of Chemistry; Myunghyun Paik Suh, Seoul National University

This summer, I researched metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and their ­application to ­hydrogen and carbon dioxide gas storage (MOFs are supramolecular ­structures that incorporate both organic and inorganic components). The goal was to ­synthesize a ­novel MOF which had exceptionally high gas adsorption capabilities. I was ­successful in ­synthesizing a new organic linker molecule and then attempted to procure ­viable ­samples of MOFs by combining the organic molecule with various metal ions. I learned a great deal about organic synthesis techniques as well as spectroscopic ­characterization of organic molecules and X-ray diffraction characterization of single crystals. I also ­acquired insight into the current state of storage for alternative fuels. This internship provided valuable experience for my intended graduate school research and ­research career in general. It also allowed me to appreciate the global nature of ­research and to make lasting friendships and collaborative relationships in the scientific community that could be beneficial in the future. (See presentation.)

Anupama Khan, 2012, Chemistry

Project: Lithiumization of Plasma-Facing Components in Fusion Reactors

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Robert Goldston, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences

According to a 2007 report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, up to 95% of energy reductions through 2100 will be made after 2030. In the long run, nuclear fusion technology is poised to become a major player in the ­global ­energy market. During my internship, I worked with Professor Robert Goldston at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Professor Steven Bernasek in the Chemistry ­Department, to study the effectiveness of lithium as a plasma-facing component in fusion reactors. In an on-going study using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), I mapped damage caused by high energy neutral beam bombardment on porous molybdenum substrates before and after lithiumization. I also developed a second set of experiments using ­X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to investigate the interactions between boron, ­lithium, and plasma contaminants because boron pre-conditioning has been shown to improve plasma performance in some reactors. I plan to continue these experiments for my senior thesis. (See presentation.)

Kevin Kim, 2012, Operations Research and Financial Engineering

Project: Energy Network Optimization Involving Alternative, Renewable Sources of Energy (Mainly Wind)

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Warren Powell, Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Director, Program in Engineering and Management Systems

Wind shows tremendous promise as a clean, economical sources of energy. However, increasing wind penetration in the power grid introduces several challenges. Unlike conventional sources of energy, wind fluctuates greatly from hour to hour and can be difficult to predict. A grid operator may overcome these challenges by reasonably predicting wind and efficiently scheduling their more reliable generation assets, like coal plants and natural gas plants, around wind's variability. This summer at PENSA (Princeton Laboratory for Energy Systems Analysis), we simulated this problem for a grid operator called PJM Interconnections, and built a model that would allocate power generation optimally in the presence of increased wind. (See presentation.)

Alexa Krakaris, 2012, Electrical Engineering

Project: Organic Solar Cells

Organization/Location: Xerox PARC, California

Advisers: Sigurd Wagner, Professor of Electrical Engineering; Robert Street, Palo Alto Research Center

During this summer internship I worked with Robert Street conducting research ­pertaining to organic photovoltaics. I conducted various experiments designed to study the ­effect of varied temperature annealing on the behavior of organic solar cells. I analyzed these results and compiled a comprehensive set of data, graphs, and spread sheets. Our ­research supported the theory that an exponential energy band tail exists, which reflects the physical properties of the organic material. We hope that this research will lead to further development in the field of organic photovoltaic devices and an overall increase in their efficiencies. (See presentation.)

Ziwei Leng, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: Size Control Over Semiconducting Materials for Organic Electronics

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Deputy Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Jeffrey Mativetsky, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Chemical and Biological Engineering

As an intern in Professor Lynn Loo’s laboratory, I developed a method for making ­organic semiconducting nanowires for applications in organic electronics such as the organic ­solar cell, which is a cheaper but currently less efficient device compared with ­silicon-based solar cells. I also conducted characterization studies of the nanowires using the scanning electron microscope (SEM) for topographical studies, transmission electron microscope (TEM) and electron diffraction for crystallinity and structural studies, ­differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) for crystallinity and phase change studies, and conductivity tests. Controlling the sizes of materials, as well as changing their molecular packing, can improve the ability of charge transport, which can in turn help increase ­efficiencies in organic electronics. I worked under the guidance of Jeff Mativetsky, a postdoctoral associate, and Professor Loo herself. They gave me the responsibility to ­create and refine a viable process of making and retrieving organic nanowires. They have also been very helpful in answering my questions and helping me solve the many problems that I encountered. Working with the group over the summer has been a great experience as well as an encouragement for me to keep pursuing a career in research. (See presentation.)

Jonathan Moch, 2012, Geosciences

Project: Quantifying Carbon Cycle-Climate Feedbacks with the GFDL Earth System Model

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Jorge Sarmiento, George J. ­Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological ­Engineering, Director, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS); Keith ­Rodgers, Research Scholar, AOS. Thomas Frolicher, ­Postdoctoral Research Fellow, AOS

This summer I worked with the Sarmiento group in the Atmospheric and Oceanic ­Sciences Program on quantifying carbon cycle-climate feedbacks in Earth System ­Models. ­Currently about half of anthropogenic carbon emissions remain in the ­atmosphere, with the remainder taken up by the carbon sinks that make up the carbon cycle. ­However, the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere through these processes is ­projected to increase as atmospheric CO₂ increases and climate change progresses. This creates a feedback between the carbon cycle and climate system which can exert a great deal of influence on the rate and degree of climate change. Climate models have different ways of characterizing this and other feedbacks, which is one reason for the uncertainty in projections between different models. Climate scientists have tried to characterize the extent of these feedbacks by using linear feedback factors. These can be easily compared between different models and useful for examining inter-model uncertainty. By creating such feedback factors, I was able to compare the ­uncertainties between different Earth System Models. In addition, I examined how intra-model ­variability affects feedback factors and discovered that uncertainty within climate models could result in a slightly smaller or larger spread of climate change projections. (See presentation.)

Emily Moder, 2013, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project: Experimental Study of Buoyantly Stable Turbulent Boundary Layers

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Alexander Smits, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Owen Williams, Graduate Student, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

My internship was based in the field of fluid mechanics research, looking specifically at the behavior of turbulent air flow when it is subjected to different temperature profiles. When warmer air flows over a cooler surface (which often happens at night or in polar regions) the turbulence is dampened because of the thermal stratification; this behavior is not well understood, and can affect things like transport and mixing of air pollutants. The project I was working on used a tool called partical image velocimetry (PIV) to create visualizations of different turbulent structures, like vortices, to characterize the behavior of the flow. A thermocouple mounted on a traversing system also allowed us to take temperature data in the wind tunnel under different conditions, and compare these results to the structures data, in order to better understand the mechanics of this environment. (See presentation.)

Kathleen O’Neil, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: Solar and Wind Energy for Haiti

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Catherine Peters, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Director, Program in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Science

The overall goal of my internship was to make progress on a project that was already underway. The project focused on a wind turbine which can be easily deployed from a standard shipping container. While a lot of the designs and plans had already been made, the focus of my summer internship was to create a prototype, which required choosing a different model for the turbine, for the tower system, and designing a box to act as the shipping container. One of the main things I worked on was a model and structural analysis of a telescoping tower we are considering using in a prototype. I felt like I was lacking a lot of background knowledge during my internship, so I learned a lot about structural analysis, wind turbines, and more specifically a program called SAP, which will be relevant to my MAE major. I also was able to get a good sense of how research projects work, in terms of finding solutions to problems, and finding better ­solutions when these fail to solve the problems, and how all of these iterations relate to the project as a whole. This project was not as straight forward as I originally thought. (See presentation.)

Kirsten Parratt, 2013, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project: How Molecular Structure Influences Device Performance in Organic Solar Cells

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Deputy Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

This summer I investigated the relationship between molecular structure and device performance in organic field-effect transistors. By blending two compounds with similar structures but different energy levels, I was able to create a range of blend ­morphologies. These showed a correlation between the blend composition and device mobility, that I then continued to investigate using Atomic Force Microscopy and Differential Scanning Calorimetry. In the end, I found that the device performance improved with more ­diffuse grain boundaries, and reached a maximum at an eutectic point. Many thanks for a wonderful summer to Professor Loo, Stephanie Lee, and the Loo Group! (See presentation.)

Jessica Saylors, 2013, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project: Assembly of Nanomaterials for Organic Solar Cells

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Deputy Director, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Jeffrey Mativetsky, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Chemical and Biological Engineering; Anna Hiszpanski, Graduate Student, Chemical and Biological Engineering

My internship was part of a larger project exploring the potential of contorted ­hexabenzocoronene (HBC), a carbon-lattice molecule, and its derivatives for use in ­organic-based electronics and solar cells. I mainly examined two variables, film ­thickness and crystallization temperature, and hoped to determine how these ­affected the ­electronic properties of crystalline HBC films. My day-to-day activities mostly ­involved making, preparing, testing, and analyzing the data derived from HBC films. In the end, we were able to describe a number of connections between the variables we ­explored. I learned not only the science and lab technique involved in my project, but also about working in a research lab, the time and effort that goes into making a scientific ­advancement, and the excitement and frustration that comes along with it. Working in the lab this summer has given me valuable experience to help me decide if I would like to pursue research in the future, and has started me thinking about shifting my ­academic focus closer to materials science. (See presentation.)

William (Junho) Song, 2013, Mathematics

Project: Modeling of a Power Grid Covering NJ, PA, MD, VA, OH, and Chicago

Organization/Location: Princeton Univeristy, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Warren Powell, Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Director, Program in Engineering and Management Systems

The main project of my internship in the summer of 2011 was to design an electricity price simulator under the guidance of Professor Warren Powell. Electricity prices are regularly subject to quite a bit of flux due to unforseen conditions, and it is critical for utilities to be able to predict price changes. By accurately predicting a spike in spot prices, utilities can protect themselves against heavy losses by purchasing forward contracts and options beforehand. However, in order to develop a working model of the electricity spot prices, we must first have a competent simulator that can run hypothetical scenarios without incurring actual losses. The simulator that I developed introduced randomness to a chosen history of actual prices and simulated scenarios that could have happened, in the hopes that it would shed light on the future prices. I hope to have laid down a solid foundation for further study in this area.

Kevin Steinberger, 2012, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Project: Review and Assessment of Biochar Strategies for Carbon Mitigation

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Eric Larson, Research Engineer, Princeton Environmental Institute

The goal of my internship this summer was to conduct research on biochar. The ­production of biochar, defined as a form of charcoal created from biomass and used for agricultural purposes, has recently been praised as a carbon negative ­technology, and represents a way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while ­simultaneously improving soil quality in some cases. Biochar has the potential to ­significantly ­reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the long-term storage of carbon in soils. I reviewed the current literature on biochar and started to create an Excel ­model to explore all the assumptions and variables involved in a life cycle analysis of the ­production of biochar. I then wrote a scientific report, that focuses on ­understanding the conditions under which favorable economic and environmental results can be achieved, by discussing all of the economic factors involved and examining the ­assumptions behind these factors. With future research, I think biochar ­production may emerge as an economically profitable way to mitigate climate change, and I am really excited to continue working on this project with my advisor, Dr. Eric ­Larson. My senior thesis will focus on designing a process to optimize the energy and char yields during biochar production. (See presentation.)

Daniel Steurer, 2014, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Project: Effect of High CO₂ on Photosynthesis and Growth in Marine Phytoplankton

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Advisers: François Morel, Albert G. Blanke, Jr., Professor of Geosciences. Yan Xu, Associate Research Scholar, Geosciences

This summer I spent time working in the lab of Professor François Morel, looking at some intricacies of the cyanobacteria Trichodesmium sp. SMS 101. Specifically, I made strides to analyze and critique current methods of growing the organism, while also examining the current and potential future effects of ocean acidification on an organism which accounts for nearly 50% of fixed nitrogen in the world’s oceans. I spent time culturing the bacteria in an artificial medium, YBC II, varying some of the medium’s properties. I also worked with a graduate student, Dalin Shi, who helped me grow the bacteria in iron-limited ­conditions – ­conditions that could arise from ocean acidification – to attempt to learn how the ­bacteria’s carbon and nitrogen fixating abilities would be affected. Throughout the ­summer, I have gained some very important skills in the lab including culturing of ­bacteria, using gas chromatography, and using general sterile techniques. I also worked with ­radioactive carbon in tracking the fixation of its molecules. My summer experience, and the skills I acquired, are pushing me towards environmentally based academic interests. Going forward, I hope to move towards the renewable energy field, to help prevent global warming-based issues like ocean acidification. (See presentation.)

Charles Zhang, 2013, Electrical Engineering

Project: Evaluation of the Electrical Characteristics of Thin-Film Solar Cells

Organization/Location: United Solar Ovonic, LLC, Michigan

Advisers: Sigurd Wagner, Professor of Electrical Engineering; Kevin Beernink, United Solar Ovonic, LLC

During this summer, I collected and analyzed data from experiments on solar cells at United Solar Ovonic in Michigan. These experiments were performed to test properties of different solar cells such as how long certain cells would last under some extreme conditions, how much light is reflected and diffused from the back reflector, how high of an efficiency that can be obtained, and how thick some layers are. Along with collecting and analyzing data from ­experimentation, I fixed and optimized a program that would help ­determine the thickness of a certain layer using light, and I created a model that would ­determine the amount of light that is reflected from a back reflector with various inputs. I learned almost all the processes that go into making the solar cells as well as working at an industry setting. In addition, I learned how to program in Microsoft Visual Basic Applications and how to operate various machines and the processes that go behind them. Working with solar cells has persuaded me to pursue a career in the energy sector.

Yapei Zhang, 2014, Molecular Biology

Project: Nitrogen Species within the Marine Atmosphere of Bermuda

Organization/Location: Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Bermuda

Advisers: Andrew Peters, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences; Katye Alteri, Visiting Fellow, ­Postdoctoral Research Associate, Geosciences

My internship this summer at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences was part of a ­larger collaborative project to better understand how anthropogenic nitrogen ­fixation affects nitrogen deposition in the North Atlantic Ocean. My project focused on ­isolating a valid method for the collection and storage of rain and aerosol samples ­deposited over the island of Bermuda in order to obtain the best signal-to-noise ratio for ­determining the true concentrations of specified ions. In order to achieve this, event-based rain samples were collected over the period of 12 weeks. Each sample collection was ­divided into portions and each portion was subsequently subjected to a different set of treatment and ­storage methods. Each treated portion was then analyzed on the ion chromatography,an instrument that measures specific ion concentrations in the ­sample. These ­obtained concentration values were subsequently compared to determine the best method for sample preservation. A similar set of tests was also conducted for dry aerosol deposition samples. (See presentation.)

Chengming Zhu, 2013, Mathematics

Project: Electricity Forward Pricing and Electricity Market Coupling

Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

Adviser: Warren Powell, Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, Director, Program in Engineering and Management Systems

I worked this summer with Dr. Michael Coulon in Princeton Laboratory of Energy ­Systems Analysis (PENSA), within the Operations Research and Financial ­Engineering Department (ORFE). The major project I was involved in was the study of multi-fuel dependent electricity pricing and the influence of European market ­coupling on the electricity spot and forward price. My major goal was to ­develop quantitative and analytic skills, to apply a mathematical model, and to develop computation solutions to real life problems involving uncertainty. Dr. Coulon and I ­investigated new approaches to electricity forward pricing, by constructing a ­MATLAB model for simulation and closed-form approximation, and then conducted back testing on the existing data. It was an extremely rewarding summer. (See presentation.)