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Discovery Day 2014

Discovery Day 2014On Friday, May 9th, the Princeton Environmental Institute hosted its annual Discovery Day—a multidisciplinary poster session celebrating undergraduate senior thesis research on environmental topics. Over 70 students from 16 academic departments showcased their work which was mentored by 60 faculty advisers.

Discovery Day is a culminating event for students participating in the Program in Environmental Studies and for students receiving field research support from PEI and the Grand Challenges Program. It is an opportunity for students to display and discuss their senior thesis research methodologies and results, to exchange perspectives, and to propose solutions to the world's most pressing environmental challenges. This year, the projects were categorized into several focal themes: biodiversity and conservation; climate; energy; water, toxins, and human health; and policy, politics, and planning.

Below, several students pictured next to their Discovery Day posters reflect on their senior thesis experience.

Gideon Grossman

Gideon Grossman, MAE
Adviser: Dan Steingart
Design of a Low-Cost Frequency Reponse Analyzer for Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy

Through my senior thesis research, I developed a new technique to better measure the state of charge of a battery pack in EVs. The ultimate goal is to improve EV batteries so that cars can travel farther, last longer, and cost less. During my research process, I was encouraged to work outside my comfort zone and to learn new skill-sets, like computer coding. My professors also encouraged me to take advantage of all sorts of opportunities afforded at Princeton beyond the course-work such as summer internships, conferences and seminars, and networking opportunities.

Alison Mills

Alison Mills, ARC
Advisers: Guy Nordenson, Stan Allen
"Interstate 0: A History and Theory of the Los Angeles River as Cultural and Urban Infrastructure"

My senior thesis research lies at the intersection of urbanism, architecture, design, and the Los Angeles River. I explored the relationship between the Los Angeles River and the City of Los Angeles in order to identify how the river works in the city as an urban and cultural construct. I investigated how to reestablish the cultural value of the river and how to bring nature back to the river by reactivating its embankments. I’m now taking what I’ve learned from this experience and through the environmental and urban studies certificate programs, to work for a large architecture firm in New York where I plan to focus on urban redevelopment. Ultimately, I hope to apply what I learned through my senior thesis to enhance the value of rivers in urban settings in other parts of the world.

Stephen Moch

Stephen Moch, WWS
Adviser: Michael Schwartz
Driving Down Emissions:  Improving the Environmental Efficacy of Federal Electric Vehicle Deployment Policy

I came to Princeton with a strong interest in the environment and in renewable energy which has led me to pursue both a certificate in environmental studies and sustainable energy. Through various courses and internship experiences, I gained an appreciation for the important role policy plays in environmental issues and the need for more research in the transportation sector. Consequently, I focused my senior thesis on improving the deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) and their potential to help address the climate problem. I particularly appreciated how my adviser challenged me along the way to delve into the problem and to make sure to check all the facts, taking nothing for granted.

Amy Tourgee

Amy Tourgee, EEB
Adviser: Lars Hedin
“No Differences in Community Dominance of Nitrogen-fixing Plants Across the Savanna, Woodland and Forest Biomes of Brazil: A Meta-Analysis”

The results of my senior thesis research were surprising. Based upon evolutionary theory, I predicted there would be a higher population of nitrogen-fixing plants in the savanna ecosystems in Brazil as compared to the woodland and forest biomes because savannahs are areas of high-disturbance (i.e., fires) and low in nitrogen. However, I found no difference. Also surprising was the lack of readily available datasets on this topic. I had to create my own dataset by individually entering every data point from 70 papers, a very time-consuming task. Consequently, I plan to make my dataset accessible to other scientists by publishing my senior thesis. Due to this research project and other opportunities at Princeton, I found my ‘dream job’.  After graduation, I will join the Environmental Defense Fund in San Francisco as a High Meadows Fellow focusing on conservation in developing countries.

Congratulations to the students and a heartfelt appreciation to all who supported these research initiatives!

To learn more about this year's senior thesis projects, please refer to the 2014 Discovery Day Program.