2020 KNI SURF-the-WAVE Prize Fellows

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Meet our fantastic second cohort of KNI SURF-the-WAVE Prize summer undergraduate research fellows!

2020 KNI SURF-the-WAVE fellows

June 16, 2020

The Kavli Nanoscience Institute established the SURF-the-WAVE (STW) Prize Fellowships Prize Program to offer opportunities for motivated undergraduates interested in pursuing nanoscience-related research. Working closely with Caltech's Student-Faculty Programs Office, the KNI SURF-the-WAVE Prize Fellowships program is available to SURF and WAVE applicants.

Successful candidates carry out a 10-week research project with a Caltech faculty mentor and typically a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar co-mentor. During this period, students engage research groups and staff, as well as participate in various seminars and activities.

The KNI SURF-the-WAVE prize fellows were selected from a competitive pool of SURF and WAVE applicants. This year's undergraduate research fellowship programs were moved to remote research activity only, given the global coronavirus pandemic. Our final Summer 2020 KNI STW Prize cohort consists of five fantastic students from around the country.



2020 KNI SURF-the-WAVE Prize Fellows

Christina LeeChristina Lee

Christina is a rising senior in Biophysics at Columbia University. This summer she is working with Richard Li in Mikhail Shapiro's group. Her research project is focused on innovative techniques to treat neurological diseases. Neurological diseases are characterized by dysfunctional neural circuits, and treatments aim to exert control over circuit activity. One  treatment option involves a technique using Acoustically Targeted Chemogenetics (ATAC), which aims to rectify issues surrounding spatial, cell-type, and temporal specificity by utilizing transient focused ultrasound blood brain barrier opening (FUS-BBBO) to transduce neurons with virally-encoded engineered chemogenetic receptors. These receptors are then able to respond to systemically administered compounds, which can activate or inhibit neuronal activity.

Developing ATAC for eventual clinical usage involves a multilevel optimization operation to ensure scalability, efficacy, and safety. Optimization of this technique for application to the primate brain is ongoing. To scale this technique to primates, several tests need to be conducted to ensure that the lowest possible viral dosage and ultrasound pressure are being used without compromising efficacy. While ATAC utilizes a widely used viral vector along with low-pressure ultrasound, further testing to minimize dosage and pressure is required to avoid possible damage to brain tissue. Christina's project will involve the analysis of histological data to determine the success of varying dosage and ultrasound pressure levels in transfection.

Christina is from Haworth, NJ and enjoys running, playing the piano, reading, and watching horror movies and crime shows.

Lucas PabarciusLucas Pabarcius

Lucas is a rising junior at Wesleyan University where he majors in Physics. He is working with Julia Greer's research group alongside Jane Zhang to research the hierarchical nano-scale structural motifs that enable the remarkable strength of arthropod cuticles— a key structural element in the majority of living organisms. Lucas will develop FEM models of and simulate future helium ion microscopy investigations into ultrastructural variations on the cuticle's typical helically layered fibrous chitin sheets. Parameterising the behavior of these mechanisms will likely be useful for future developments in nano-architected materials, as the same crack resistance and strength they provide to claws can just as well fortify brittle engineering ceramics, potentially helping to mitigate the imperfection-based failure points which restrict scaling engineered nano-scale size effects to next-generation materials.

Lucas grew up in London, England, and loves getting his hands dirty building various projects, experiments and sculptures. He also likes just about anything that puts him in nature, particularly rock climbing, archery, and dirt-biking. He is interested in applying physical theory to the most challenging areas of engineering, whether the expanse of space or the smallest of scales.

Brandan TaingBrandan Taing

Brandan is a rising junior in Chemical Engineering at University of California, Los Angeles. This summer he is working with Professor Julia Greer’s research group and co-mentor Kai Narita to advance the understanding of porous theory in lithium ion batteries. The porous theory, which happens to be the most adopted model to predict lithium ion battery diffusion, models the transport and reactions of lithium ions as they move through an electrolyte toward an electrode. The Greer group plans to investigate the size dependence of lithium ion diffusion in lithium ion batteries by using inverse opal structured carbon (IOC) based on predictions from the porous theory. Brandan’s work this summer will contribute to improving the implementation of this research and other related projects.

Brandan is from San Diego, CA and enjoys reading, watching and playing sports, mahjong, chess. After college, he hopes to pursue a research-based career in energy storage and/or nanotechnology.

Rachel ThamRachel Tham

Rachel is a senior at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and is majoring in Materials Science and Engineering. She will be working with Harry Atwater’s research group with David Needell this summer on investigating solar energy specifically geared toward the application within residential and municipal buildings. One way to achieve this is by implementing photovoltaic windows that use luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), which are made of a dielectric waveguide with embedded luminophore materials. These luminophores absorb incident light and re-emit light at another wavelength that is then focused onto a solar cell that generates electricity. To further improve LSCs, luminophores can be replaced by 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs), which have near-unity photoluminescence (PL) radiative efficiencies. Using modeling methods, this research will explore how TMDCs can be implemented in LSC designs to optimize LSC optical efficiencies and performance. TMDCs can then be applied in LSC photovoltaic window designs, in addition to other optoelectronic device applications.

Rachel is from Cupertino, CA and enjoys hiking, environmental conservation, women-in-STEM outreach, and learning languages – she is currently actively learning Korean!

Evan YamaguchiEvan Yamaguchi

Evan is a rising senior at University of Maryland, College Park, where he majors in Physics. He is working with Andrei Faraon's research group alongside co-mentors Hyounghan Kwon and Tianzhe Zheng. Evan's project involves the design of dielectric metasurfaces, which are two-dimensional dielectric structures that can be engineered to control the characteristics of light incident on their surface. The Faraon group designed and characterized many applications of optical metasurfaces, and Evan will assist in computationally designing metasurfaces that manipulate light by utilizing exotic resonances derived from bound states in the continuum. These novel metasurfaces have potential applications in compact optical devices such as new types of optical modulators.

Evan is from Frederick, Maryland and enjoys playing and watching ice hockey (go Caps!), reading, hiking, crosswords. He is also learning to read and speak Japanese. After graduating, Evan plans to continue research in a post-baccalaureate program abroad and pursue a PhD in physics where he can investigate systems at the intersection of atomic physics, condensed matter physics, and quantum information and their applications.