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Meet Climate and Energy Challenge Past Interns: 2013

Pranav Badami, 2015, Electrical Engineering


Project: QCD System Design
Organization/Location: Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and Environment (MIRTHE), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Claire Gmachl, Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering. Vice Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science

Quantum cascade detectors (QCDs) can be used to detect the presence of certain gases in the atmosphere. As a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) intern at Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and Environment (MIRTHE), I worked towards designing a commercially-viable QCD system for the detection low-wavelength light which is absorbed by potent greenhouse gases like methane. Similar QCD systems have been developed in the past using slow growth methods; our system was grown using Metalorganic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) which is fast and industrially viable. In order to detect low-wavelength light, we opted to build a Gallium Nitride (GaN) system which has a high conduction band offset. Much of the internship was focused on hands-on cleanroom processing, where we fabricated GaN QCDs. After device processing was complete, we moved toward testing and characterization of the QCD. I acquired skills in photolithography, etching, and data analysis techniques; I also learned how to take measurements to determine if a QCD is functioning. I was able to present my initial data at the MIRTHE Summer Workshop. I learned a lot over the summer and gained new skills; I am considering exploring the field further once I look into other concentrations within the Electrical Engineering department.


Vincent Bai, 2014, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Developing Energy Solutions Through Lightening Energy
Organization/Location: Lightening Energy, Dover, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael Epstein, Lightening Energy

The overall goal of my summer internship was to contribute to the ongoing research/development and operations at Lightening Energy. Lightening Energy is a small energy company that is working towards developing energy solutions for the future, especially with regards to transportation and grid storage. I engaged in a variety of activities over the course of the internship. For one ARPA-E grant proposal, I worked on a heat transfer analysis to demonstrate the feasibility of the solid-state lithium ion battery that was proposed. I also performed market research for several different projects and grant proposals that were ongoing during my time at Lightening Energy. I learned much about the dynamics of a workplace and how to interact with co-workers. My internship showed me the benefits of working at a small company and has influenced me to try to find a job at an energy startup. It also helped me to narrow down my thesis topic; I will be performing research on the assembly of supercapacitors.


Ethan Campbell, 2016, Geosciences


Project: Argo Floats
Organization/Location: Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS), Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Joseph Majkut, Ph.D. candidate, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

I worked with AOS graduate student Joe Majkut in Professor Jorge Sarmiento's group this summer. My goal was to answer the following question: How accurately can one reconstruct real-world ocean biogeochemical fields by inverting the sparse and noisy data from the 3600 Argo profiling floats scattered within the world’s oceans? I investigated this uncertainty by simulating Argo measurements at the positions of actual floats using output from a high-resolution climate model, then reconstructing the model fields via a simple interpolation scheme. Comparing the original and reconstructed fields produced estimates of reconstruction error across different ocean basins; correlating that reconstruction error with metrics such as density of floats and type of float enabled further inference. Overall, the results affirm the Argo array's ability to capture large-scale fields where floats are present. This project gave me a valuable glimpse into scientific computing and earth science research, the latter of which has convinced me to major in geosciences and consider research as a career path.


Ismael Catovic, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Koel Research Group
Organization/Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

I was fortunate this summer to work with the Surface Science group at PPPL, headed by Professor Bruce Koel, preparing an Ultraviolet Photoelectron Spectroscopic (UPS) instrument for use in the lab. Using techniques such as UPS, the Surface Science group analyzes chemical interactions at the atomic level with the aim of determining the properties of plasma-facing component materials to be used in plasma fusion reactors. UPS works by generating ultraviolet light, which strikes the surface being analyzed and causes a valence electron to be emitted. By measuring the kinetic energy of the emitted electrons, also called photoelectrons, one can accurately determine which molecular species are adsorbed or bonded to the surface as well as their orientation. I researched various types of UPS instruments and prepared a home-built Helium UPS instrument. I also took measurements and specifications of the UPS instrument so that it could be duplicated in the future. My experience working at PPPL opened my eyes to some of the extensive applications of Chemical Engineering and reconfirmed my commitment to its study.


Brian Chang, 2016, Chemistry


Project: Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Photocatalysts for Solar Water Splitting and Carbon Dioxide Reduction to Fuels
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The goal of my PEI summer internship was to develop a better catalyst for solar-powered water splitting, mainly to serve as a hydrogen fuel source. Hydrogen can be used as a zero-emission energy source. However, current methods of generating sufficient quantities of hydrogen are problematic in that they are either energy-intensive or create large quantities of greenhouse gases. Photocatalytic water splitting is a promising method of generating hydrogen, and should theoretically only require a source of sunlight and water and an appropriate catalyst. I sought to test an alloy of zinc oxide and manganese oxide for use as a photocatalyst. This alloy has been theorized to be highly efficient but has not yet been successfully synthesized. Over the summer I ran experiments where I attempted to first synthesize very small zinc oxide nano-particles, then attempted to combine them with manganese oxide, then characterized the resulting product in terms of particle size and geometry using various materials science techniques. This internship taught me about independently carrying out a research project, and further confirmed my interest in scientific research as a career path.


Elliot Chang, 2016, Civil and Environmental Engineering


Project: What Trees Could Learn from Alan Greenspan
Organization/Location: Princeton Caylor Lab, Princeton, New Jersey
Adviser(s): Adam Wolf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Working with a team of other undergraduate Princeton students, I studied water distribution among competing oak and pine trees in the Silas Little Experimental Forest. Using four sheltered and irrigated plots linked to large tanks of isotopically labeled water, we were able to label the water applied to the territory around one focal tree. This label allowed us to determine how much water neighboring trees “stole” from this focal tree. Sampling soils, tree stems, and roots, I learned how to use cryogenic vacuum distillations to collect the water from these samples. Using a Picarro isotopic analyzer to study isotopologues of water, including HDO and H218O, we examined which competing tree obtained the isotopic water. On a sub-project, I assembled a Decagon Hyprop device to study the volumetric water content of soils across varying water potentials. I plan on continuing my research with the Hyprop device to attempt long periods of data collection. The troubleshooting of the Hyprop software and hardware was highly rewarding, and I was able to learn how engineers work on a day-to-day basis. My summer research helped me learn more about isotopic hydrology and inspired me to do research in ecohydrology for my junior independent work.


Marius Constantin, 2014, Physics


Project: Lithium Radiation in Plasmas
Organization/Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Robert Goldston, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences

During the summer of 2013 I interned at PPPL, one of the world’s leading laboratories in the field of fusion energy research specializing in tokamak reactors. As the scale of the reactor experiments increases, one of the key challenges that presents itself is the controlled cooling of the plasma layer that is the closest to the reactor wall. Under the guidance of Professor Robert J. Goldston, my co-intern and I took a step in addressing this challenge by focusing on the charge exchange processes between neutral deuterium and ionized lithium, which coexist inside the plasma. We found that although these processes did not significantly alter the cooling rate in the temperature and density regimes of current experiments, they could provide the dominant cooling mechanism for experiments operating at the parameters required to make fusion a viable energy source. Building on previous knowledge from the “Science and Technology of Nuclear Energy class," I gained valuable insights into how numerical simulations, scaling laws, and heuristics can become powerful tools in pushing the boundary of fusion energy research. Moreover, this internship gave me the opportunity to work within an exceptional community of scholars, and it reinforced my aspiration to pursue a career in applied physics.


Jacob Eisenberg, 2016, Undeclared


Project: Feedbacks Between Tropical Forests, Climate, and Earth’s Carbon Budget
Organization/Location: Princeton University, United States
Adviser(s): David Medvigy, Assistant Professor of Geosciences

The overarching goals of my research group were to develop a complex computer model that would simulate the effectiveness of the terrestrial biosphere as carbon sink, and to determine how climate change has, and will, alter that effectiveness. Over the course of the summer, I learned how to use the Ecosystem Demography model version 2 (ED2). I then began running the model on small patches of forests in the Amazon, using a database containing information on those patches to initialize the model, and ultimately to determine the accuracy of the model. I consulted with Professor Medvigy about changing some of the parameters in the model that weren't yet fully understood, to see if it would increase or decrease accuracy. While I spent some time learning about the general issues of the work the group was doing, the most valuable aspect of this internship for me was learning about the structure, complexity, and technical issues of a large computer model, and how such a model can be used in scientific research. It was also interesting to see first-hand how a research group functions and collaborates. This internship has definitely confirmed my interest in studying environmental science.


Chantelle Ekanem, 2016, Chemical Engineering


Project: Engineering for Advanced Energy Storage and Distribution
Organization/Location: Lightening Energy, Dover, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael Epstein, Lightening Energy

This summer I was an intern with Lightening Energy, a company that develops Lithium-Ion batteries for applications ranging from vehicles to military equipment. Our projects focused on aiding the company’s battery development, engineering, and commercial product design for methods of energy storage and distribution. I helped build battery cells, conduct research and complete write-ups for reports, and test new battery materials. From these tasks, I gained insight into numerous aspects of running a business. I observed lab work, research, insurance proceedings, meetings with donors, and more. I also explored diverse aspects of the engineering field. As a result, I am now able to work well with professionals producing tangible work—I know more formal lab procedures, and am more proficient in Microsoft Excel. After being exposed to these tasks, I learned that I have a passion for hands-on activities such as lab work and various physics experiments. Thanks to this internship, I think that I want to pursue something more hands-on for my career. The company taught me that there is so much more to explore in the field of Chemical Engineering. I am extremely grateful to have played a small part in their story.


Christopher Kwadwo Gordon, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Based Electronic Devices
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Yueh-Lin Loo,Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering. Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Associate Director for External Partnerships, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Jia Gao, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Chemical and Biological Engineering

I really enjoyed my summer research internship with the Loo Group at Princeton University. My project involved using an inkjet printer to deposit carbon nanotubes onto preprocessed silicon wafers to make simple electronic devices (Field Effect Transistors). This technique is scalable to industrial levels of production and it offers precise control over the location and quantity of deposited material. As such, cost, materials, and energy consumption as well as the environmental impact of production can all be greatly reduced. This in turn would likely make technology cheaper and more accessible and thus address the world’s energy challenge. I spent the majority of my internship perfecting the preparation and dispensation of the “carbon nanotube ink” in order to achieve working devices. I learned how to construct and conduct systematic studies, how to troubleshoot effectively, and how to sift through various books and research papers to obtain specific relevant information. This internship stimulated and sharpened my interest in doing research at a higher level while allowing me to work in a friendly yet challenging environment. I would definitely recommend future internships with the Loo research group and I will use this invaluable experience in looking towards graduate school.


Sarthak Gupta, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Project: Solar Electricity Forecaster
Organization/Location: Climate Central, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Eric Larson, Research Engineer, Princeton Environmental Institute

One of the biggest impediments to the spread of domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in the United States is lack of public awareness – a lot of people tend to think it is unsuitable for their house without looking at the numbers. In the summer of 2013, I worked at Climate Central developing a solar electricity forecasting tool that aims to address this issue. The tool not only calculates the average monthly electricity production for a specified U.S. location and panel size, but also tries to predict the output for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow using a cloud cover regression. Working out of the Princeton, NJ headquarters of Climate Central, I was responsible for both the PV energy research and web development aspects of the project. On the research side, I gained a detailed understanding of the chain of PV energy conversions and loss mechanisms. On the web development side, I acquired a number of skills including efficient data handling, server side development and front-end design. My time at Climate Central reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in renewable energy and provided some great senior thesis ideas!


Tzu-Yung Huang, 2015, Electrical Engineering


Project: Laser and Sensor Development for Trace Gas Sensing
Organization/Location: Mid-Infared Technologies for Health and Environment (MIRTHE), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Claire Gmachl, Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering. Vice Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science

I spent my summer internship at MIRTHE. In my project, we aimed to develop a III-nitride based quantum cascade laser which could be used for longer wavelength trace gas sensing in environmental applications. The main challenge we encountered and aimed to resolve during the duration of this project was the high contact resistances of the device, which we aimed to improve by trying different recipes of metal contacts. I spent the majority of this internship fabricating devices in the clean room and obtaining their electrical characterization, which provided me the invaluable opportunity to familiarize myself with the equipment and to learn the many important skills involved in conducting research and fabrication. This internship has furthered my interest in doing research work in related fields after my undergraduate career, and I have learned the tools that will enable me to do that through this opportunity.


Peter Johnsen, 2015, Physics


Project: Velocity Controlled Molecular Beam Scattering
Organization/Location: Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPIBPC), Germany
Adviser(s): Alec Wodtke, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

Surface science plays a key role in catalytic converters, fuel cells, and even the destruction of the ozone layer. Furthering our understanding of this emerging field will increase our ability to design more energy-efficient industrial processes, improve the cost-effectiveness of fuel cells, and combat the chemical activity that occurs on atmospheric microcrystals. I spent this summer with scientists at the MPIBPC in an attempt to test the validity of the best theoretical models for energy transfer between molecules and surfaces, and to develop new theories for explaining these phenomena. We were able to scatter a beam of electronically excited carbon monoxide molecules with tunable velocity off a gold surface and detect when electrons are ejected, then calculated the efficiency of electron ejection. It is possible to change this efficiency by carefully sticking molecules onto the surface of the gold, and we were able to induce up to 770% more electron emission, giving the process an efficiency of roughly 85%. The current theories for molecule-to-surface energy transfer cannot explain this result, and the development of a new model will bring us closer to understanding complex surface-molecule interactions. My work at the MPIBPC has given me an interesting perspective on physical chemistry and I am taking additional quantum mechanics courses to further my knowledge of this field.


Jordan Lubkeman, 2016, Undeclared


Project: Shedding Light on Plant Respiration
Organization/Location: Princeton Environmental Institute, Department of Geosciences, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael Bender, Professor of Geosciences; Paul Gauthier, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Geosciences

The objective of my summer internship was to help develop and use a new technique for studying leaf respiration in the light, using stable isotope measurements. Leaf respiration in the light is one important parameter in our understanding of the global carbon cycle and climate change. However, most models assume in their calculations that a plant’s respiratory metabolism occurs at the same rate in the light as it does in the dark. This might not be the case, as respiration is inhibited in the light. Data on this phenomenon have been considered too scant to be incorporated into models. Through our research, we hope to change this and improve the accuracy of those models. During my internship, I got to participate in every step of the research process. I germinated seeds and grew them into plants for experimentation, helped calibrate and perform maintenance on instruments and alter the experimental design, ran experiments and collected data, processed these data, read many journal articles, and participated in lab meetings. I learned a great deal about plant physiology, climate change and modeling, the nuances involved when working with living plants, and the many facets of academic research.


Aidan MacDonagh, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Project: Magnetic Nozzle Research
Organization/Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Program in Plasma Science and Technology (PPST), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Dr. Samuel Cohen, Director, Program in Plasma Science and Technology, P.I., Magnetic Nozzle & FRC Experiments, Plasma Physics Laboratory. Lecturer with the rank of Professor in Astrophysical Sciences. Co-Director, Program in Plasma Science and Technology

Magnetic nozzle research, such as the Magnetic Nozzle Experiment (MNX) at PPPL, involves the study of the flow of plasma through spatial constrictions imposed by magnetic fields and physical boundaries that effectively form an analog of the physical nozzle. This research has important applications in both magnetic fusion technology and in spacecraft propulsion technology. This summer I worked under Dr. Samuel Cohen at PPPL, where I conducted particle-in-cell (PIC) code simulations of plasma detachment from a magnetic nozzle. This process of detachment is considered crucial to both thrust production in a propulsion system and efficient energy generation in related fusion technology. My own work and the work of my co-interns addressed various components of Dr. Cohen’s Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration Experiment (PFRC), a reactor concept that could provide small-scale clean and sustainable power generation through nuclear fusion. Thanks to this internship, I not only developed a unique skill set relevant to my research area, but I also gained an understanding of the state of nuclear fusion technology and its importance to our future energy needs. I greatly enjoyed my work at PPPL under Dr. Cohen, and I am looking forward to continuing this work as my senior thesis this coming year.


Nina Masters, 2014, Chemistry


Project: Core-Shell Particles
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael McAlpine, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Through my internship this summer, I was able to step outside of the research opportunities typically available to a chemistry major and try my hand at something different—materials science engineering in a mechanical engineering lab. Throughout this experience, I gained valuable skills and made significant headway in preparing myself for my senior thesis.


Eric Materniak, 2014, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Project: Engineering for Advanced Energy Storage Technology
Organization/Location: Lightening Energy, Dover, NJ
Adviser(s): Mike Epstein, Lightening Energy

As an intern at Lightening Energy this past summer, I performed many tasks related to energy storage technology. Lightening Energy, a small company, submits many proposals for military contracts. One such proposal was for a vehicle battery with an increased charge retention life. On just the second day of my internship, we needed to perform a heat transfer calculation to verify the charge retention life of this vehicle battery. This kind of atmosphere made the internship very exciting. As Lightening Energy is considering manufacturing their lithium ion batteries in the near future, I developed a cost model for a lithium ion battery manufacturing plant to determine if the company could compete with large scale manufacturers in Asia. In order to make the batteries affordable on a large scale, Lightening Energy also wanted a new simple and cost-effective case design for their lithium ion cell, which I designed using CAD software. Another part of my internship involved researching alternative materials for fuel cell interconnects. These energy technologies can be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuel power plants which provide extra power to the grid. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship this summer and am considering a career related to energy storage technology or alternative energy.


Ryan McNellis, 2015, Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE)


Project: Models for Energy Distribution and Banking
Organization/Location: Lightening Energy, Dover, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael Epstein, Lightening Energy

My internship with Lightening Energy (LE) this summer was both rewarding and challenging. LE is a company specializing in technology for advanced battery and rapid recharging for electric motor vehicles and military applications. I was responsible for developing the mathematical models and computer code for a new web application that the company is creating. I constructed the web page/user interface for the app and provided presentations on the utility of the app to shareholders and customers of the company. This internship gave me a chance to apply what I learned in my academic studies at Princeton to a real world problem. I’m now considering getting a PhD in operations research after I graduate since what I have learned thus far in the field as an undergraduate prepared me well for the issues I tackled this summer. It also gave me invaluable professional experience; for example, I learned how to make the most out of business meetings and how to present and pitch ideas effectively. Finally, my time at LE helped me to see what it is like to work for a small company, in contrast to doing research at a university, as I did last summer.


Marina Nogueira, 2016, Molecular Biology


Project: Microbial Fuel Cells: Microfluidic Approaches to Microbial Fuel Cells
Organization/Location: Complex Fluids Group - Stone Lab
Adviser(s): Howard Stone, Donald R. Dixon '69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

This summer I investigated the role of biofilm streamers in the clogging of porous materials. Biofilms are bacterial communities that occupy most moist surfaces and are known for clogging industrial flow systems and causing medical-device-associated infections. Previous research in the Stone Lab showed that biofilms, in the presence of flow, can form three-dimensional structures, which bridge the spaces between obstacles and cause sudden and rapid clogging. This summer, we were interested to see if streamers form in porous materials which are used in various filtration systems, and whether these streamers dictate clogging dynamics in real soil. I used microfluidic channels to mimic a soil-like environment. I was then able to look at streamer formation in the channels and gather data, such as flow rates and clogging times, to understand the dynamics in these systems. It was exciting to see that biofilm streamers could form in porous materials like soil and may play a role in the clogging dynamics. I really enjoyed my experience this summer and I was encouraged to keep researching. I will continue to work on the project during the semester and I now know that I would like to pursue a career in science research.


Sindiso Nyathi, 2016, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: What Trees Could Learn from Alan Greenspan
Organization/Location: Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Adam Wolf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

I spent the summer working with four other undergraduates and Prof. Adam Wolf assessing the possible effects of changing climate on transpiration and water use in trees–primarily the white oak, black oak and pitch pine. My role was to determine how different levels of water availability affect transpiration in trees. I did this by constructing sap-flow probes, which measure the sap flow rate of trees. These trees were then artificially subjected to varying levels of water availability and their sap flow rates measured. The sap flow rates were then used to calculate transpiration at different times of day and at different water availability levels. In addition to constructing, installing, and maintaining the probes, I wrote the programs used to analyze the data collected. I conducted research to investigate how previous researchers had determined estimates of transpiration, attempted to replicate these methods, and determined which was the most efficient. I gained practical skills in circuit design and circuit construction, working with languages such as CRBasic and Matlab, and working with Dataloggers. The internship has encouraged me, among other things, to further investigate the application of automated computer systems in the monitoring of environmental conditions.


Caden Ohlwiler, 2015, Mechanical Engineering


Project: What Trees Could Learn from Alan Greenspan
Organization/Location: Princeton Ecohydrology Lab, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Adam Wolf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Current research efforts in Princeton’s ecohydrology lab include studying how trees respond to drought and conducting low-cost environmental monitoring. This summer, I worked on two projects: Designing both a leaf chamber and attachments for the Princeton University Low-Cost Sensors for the Environment (PULSE) sensor project. For the leaf chamber project, I met with a plant researcher at Princeton who advised me on the design and construction of a chamber and provided me with design files for his chamber. I designed a chamber and compiled a parts list. I plan to begin construction of this chamber this fall to study the photosynthetic response of leaves under simulated drought conditions. For the PULSE project, I designed and prototyped attachments for a sensor pod currently being developed in the lab which will provide a low-cost, modular sensor platform suitable for real-time environmental and agricultural monitoring in developing countries. These attachments include connectors for a variety of sensors, an adjustable solar panel mount, and zip-tie attachments for the pod. By using the lab's 3D printer, I was able to move quickly from a conceptual design to a physical part, and iteratively redesign parts based on real-world testing and feedback from my advisor. This internship furthered my interest in product design and rapid prototyping, a field I am seriously considering for my career.


Olamide Oladosu, 2015, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Project: Hematite (FE203)-Based Photoelectrocatalysts for Production of Renewable Hydrogen
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

I spent my summer immersed in the world of photocatalysis, a field that seeks to harness the power of the sun to efficiently run the reactions that will power our world in the future. I began by doing background research into the role of hematite and other semiconducting materials in catalyzing the splitting of water into its constituent parts. This reaction looks particularly promising because the hydrogen created can be stored and later burned cleanly in oxygen, creating energy and water as the only products. Current research focuses on balancing dopant concentrations and surface morphology in the catalysts in order to find a happy medium that maximizes the turnover of either photocurrent density or gas product for given wavelengths of light. Through the work of assembling and tuning a quadrupole mass spectrometer, I gained experience in the process of analyzing a photocatalyst candidate using temperature programmed desorption (TPD). This internship gave me an in-depth look into the proper design and execution of experimental systems and has really inspired me to pursue research into renewable energy sources as a career path.


Elizabeth Paul, 2015, Astrophysics


Project: Advanced-Fuel Fusion Reactors
Organization/Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Samuel Cohen, Director, Program in Plasma Science and Technology, P.I., Magnetic Nozzle & FRC Experiments, Plasma Physics Laboratory. Lecturer with the rank of Professor in Astrophysical Sciences. Co-Director, Program in Plasma Science and Technology

Nuclear fusion has long been regarded as a potential alternative to fossil fuels and a technology that could ensure a safe energy future. An advanced fuel fusion reactor, the Field Reversed Configuration, is especially promising as it is smaller and cleaner than the more widely studied tokamak. My project explored the transfer of energy between the very energetic particles produced in the fusion reaction and the plasma in the scrape-off layer, the relatively thin outer layer of the reactor. By the end of the summer I began to understand how to optimize the simulation of this process, and explored new methods of energy dissipation, such as through excitation of plasma waves. As a result of this project,,I gained valuable skills in running and debugging plasma simulations software, data analysis, and navigation of scientific literature. More importantly, my research experience piqued my interest in computation physics and provided me with an appreciation for the interesting physics involved in the study of plasmas and fusion.


Zhaonan Qu, 2015, Math


Project: Lithium Cooling in Tokamak Scrape-Off Layer
Organization/Location: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Professor Robert Goldston, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences

Fusion energy is among one of the several most promising new energy resources. The Tokamak is a relatively developed fusion reactor that has been utilized to confine fusion plasma, whose temperature could reach 100 million degrees Celsius, so that fusion reactions can take place. However, a major technical issue remains unsolved for fusion energy reactors: Temperature in the Scrape-Off Layer (SOL, the part of the plasma immediately in contact with reactor walls) remains hard to control, which could lead to severe damage to reactors, breaking a sustainable fusion reaction. To stabilize the temperature in SOL, impurity ions with high radiative power are introduced into the plasma, so that much of the power is dissipated through various atomic and ionic reactions. In short, reduction of heat flux along the magnetic field lines is a crucial step towards a stable temperature. My research for the summer of 2013 focused on establishing and developing a model that predicts the cooling rate and heat flux reduction of several different impurity elements in the fusion plasma. This summer's research position at PPPL provided me with the great opportunity to further develop my work at PPPL last summer, and to work closely with an inspiring figure in plasma physics, Professor Godlston.


Kevin Ross, 2014, Civil and Environmental Engineering


Project: Mitigating Climate Accelerants
Organization/Location: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Boulder, CO
Adviser(s): Peter Zalzal, Environmental Defense Fund

This summer, I was an engineering intern on the Climate and Air team for EDF. The majority of the work I performed was based on researching mitigation options for non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In particular, I was heavily involved in EDF's efforts to develop a strategy for hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) mitigation. HFCs are extremely potent greenhouse gases that are mostly emitted from refrigeration and air conditioning technology. Throughout the summer, I produced a document that outlined mitigation options for HFCs in the U.S. and internationally and for how EDF could begin to pursue these options. In addition to my work on HFCs, I also did research on mitigation of black carbon emissions in the U.S., volatile organic compound emissions in Northern Colorado, and potential green jobs in Ohio. My experience with the EDF was pivotal in determining what I would like to pursue once I graduate. I woke up every morning excited about what I would do at work that day, and it was extremely fulfilling to be working on projects that I believed could make a real difference in the enviornment. As a result, I hope to continue my career in environmental protection.


Jordan Shivers, 2016, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Microbial Fuel Cells: Microfluidic Approaches to Microbial Fuel Cells
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton,NJ
Adviser(s): Howard Stone, Donald R. Dixon '69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Biofilms are antibiotic-resistant communities of bacteria that adhere to moist surfaces and are responsible for numerous medical device-related infections. Under flow conditions in non-uniform environments, certain bacteria form 3D streamers which span across gaps and can cause rapid clogging. During my internship with the Stone Research Group, I studied some of the mechanics behind the formation of these streamers in several strains of Staphylococcus aureus and the idea of modifying gene expression to control the adherence of these streamers to surfaces. While working on the project, I learned a tremendous amount about biofilms, microfluidics, and bacterial quorum sensing as well as the nuances of working with bacteria in the lab. The internship allowed me to experience the practical application of many ideas I had learned in my biology classes and gave me valuable insight into the challenges and rewards of conducting scientific research. These experiences definitely strengthened my interest in biology and chemistry. I plan to continue working on this project during the school year.


Bethany Sneathen, 2016, Molecular Biology


Project: What Trees Could Learn from Alan Greenspan
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Adam Wolf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

During my summer internship with the Caylor Lab in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Princeton University, I studied water transport during drought in oak and pine trees in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. Global climate change increases the likelihood of droughts to occur and to be increasingly severe; knowing how various tree species respond to drought aids predictions of how an ecosystem will respond to drought. My lab group pursued this topic by inducing drought in some trees while irrigating others with “heavy” water. By doing this, we could analyze the change in certain parameters of plant hydraulics in the drought trees, such as leaf conductivity and turgor loss point, while the leaves and stems of the irrigated trees could be analyzed to determine the isotopic ratios of water as time passed. Through this internship, I learned how imperative teamwork and adaptability are to the operation of a lab. Although my experience with environmental research was enlightening in various ways, I intend to apply the new skills I acquired from this internship to other academic endeavors, as I pursue a concentration in Molecular Biology and a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy.


Nicholas Szamreta, 2014, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Measuring the Intrinsic Capacitance of Graphene/Ionic Liquid Interfaces for High Energy Density Supercapacitors
Organization/Location: Ceramic Materials Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Ilhan Aksay, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; David Bozym, Ph.D. candidate, Chemical and Biological Engineering

This past summer, I had the pleasure of working in the Ceramic Materials Laboratory at Princeton University, where I researched the potential applications of functionalized graphene sheets (FGSs) and room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) in supercapacitors. Supercapacitors present advantages over batteries, because they have much higher power densities and cycle lives. In other words, they charge and discharge more quickly than batteries and remain stable for a large number of these cycles. However, the energy density of such devices needs to be increased substantially to compete with batteries. The energy density of a supercapacitor is dependent upon the total voltage applied to the device and the capacitance of the electrode material. The coupling of FGSs and RTILs addresses both of these factors: RTILs remain stable over a large voltage window, while the high specific surface area of FGSs allows for more charge storage. I spent the summer investigating the capacitance that is intrinsic to the interface between these two materials. In addition to becoming experienced with electrochemical methods, such as impedance spectroscopy and cyclic voltammetry, I also obtained data that are both interesting and relevant to the field. My findings are promising and provide motivation for continued research, something that I plan on doing as part of my senior thesis this coming year.


Ian Tamargo, 2014, Chemistry


Project: LED Displays
Organization/Location: McAlpine Research Group, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Michael McAlpine, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

As a chemistry major with limited exposure to disciplines outside of chemistry and molecular biology, I have learned much about research in mechanical and electrical engineering, and particularly in materials science during this internship. The research that I have done this summer will contribute to my senior thesis. As I am interested in pursuing an MD-PhD degree after college, this internship has encouraged me to consider a PhD in biomedical engineering.


Tyler Tamasi, 2015, Chemistry


Project: Designing Organic Small-Molecules for Use in Organic Solar Cells
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Yueh-Lin Loo,Theodora D. '78 and William H. Walton III '74 Professor in Engineering Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Associate Director for External Partnerships, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Jia Gao, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Chemical and Biological Engineering

As an intern with the Loo Organic and Polymer Electronics Laboratory in the Princeton Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, I worked on making new organic small-molecules for use in solar cells. These compounds centered around an isoindigo core. Throughout my project, I began to elucidate how differences and variants of this chemical structure affect performance in solar cells. From carrying out novel organic synthesis to meeting with and learning from experts in the field, I gained immeasurable insight into both the world of organic electronics and, specifically, polymer and small-molecule solar cells. As a chemistry major entering the field of energy technologies and hoping to contribute to solving the global energy crisis, being able to work with individuals that have such insight into the current status of organic electronics has created an invaluable springboard for my future research and opportunities.


Elizabeth Tolman, 2015, Physics


Project: The Relationship between Spectroscopic and Probe Measurements in the TU/e Fusor
Organization/Location: Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands
Adviser(s): Maarten de Bock, Eindhoven University of Technology

This summer, I worked with the fusion department at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. One of the department’s experiments is an advanced fusor, which is a fusion reactor that confines its plasma using a large electric field. Although not likely to produce net energy, the fusor could one day be a commercial source of neutrons; it also provides opportunities for studying the general behavior of plasmas. As part of my internship, I automated the fusor’s pressure and voltage measuring systems. In addition, I researched the relationship between potential measurements made with a probe inserted into the fusor and spectroscopic measurements of light coming from the fusor. The internship allowed me to gain more knowledge of plasma physics and also to gain more familiarity with experimental physics. I enjoyed these experiences, so I hope to continue learning about plasma physics in the future through my independent work at Princeton. In addition, I am now considering going to graduate school in plasma physics.


Sean Treacy, 2016, Chemistry


Project: What Trees Could Learn From Alan Greenspan
Organization/Location: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser(s): Adam Wolf, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This past summer I worked in the Caylor Ecohydrology lab helping to develop a model that describes how trees manage limited water resources. I primarily used a Scanning Electron Microscope to characterize xylem microphysiology in Pine and Oak species from the New Jersey Pinelands during different climate conditions. I learned to use MATLAB and create bash scripts in the terminal. Using both, I made a program that created and stored continuous data visualizations for the isotope analyzer in the lab. During my PEI internship, I developed more programming skills and had the opportunity to use advanced and primitive technologies to perform ecological research. I now know much more about laboratory and field research across various disciplines. Working as a team to complete various goals, my coworkers and I forwarded the frontier in our understanding of tree ecology. I plan to use the experience I have gained to engage in more environmental research projects and focus my studies around biological and environmental chemistry. I hope to someday conduct field research as part of a career in environmental sciences.


Claire Zarakas, 2016, Geosciences


Project: Scaling and Coupling of the Atmosphere with Land Ecosystems
Organization/Location: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama); Medvigy Group (Princeton University)
Adviser(s): David Medvigy, Assistant Professor of Geosciences

This summer I investigated herbivory in nitrogen-fixing trees as compared to non-nitrogen-fixing trees in tropical second-growth forests. I spent the first half of the internship doing field work in Panama, where I helped design and implement an experiment that consisted of collecting leaf samples from nitrogen-fixing and non-nitrogen-fixing trees and setting up a comparative branch enclosure study. I then returned to Princeton where I worked with the Ecosystem Demography Model 2 to simulate how herbivory impacts the accumulation of biomass in secondary succession. I feel very fortunate to have experienced both field research and computational research through PEI; I will continue the computational component with David Medvigy during the academic year. In addition to developing my technical skills, this internship exposed me to a wide range of scientific research and a fascinating community of scholars. It has inspired me to major in geosciences, solidified my commitment to address environmental change professionally, and excited me about the prospect of continuing research at Princeton and beyond.