This summer the KNI welcomes its fourth official cohort of summer undergraduate research fellows to campus. The KNI SURF-the-WAVE prize fellows will conduct nanoscience-related research projects over the course of the next ten weeks. The undergrads will work closely with graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty mentors as they investigate a wide variety of interesting topics, including: developing photocathodes for carbon dioxide reduction; lithium-ion battery technology; photoelectrochemical carbon dioxide conversion; superconducting microresonator optimization; strain-engineered 2D materials; and 3D printed Kevlar nanocomposites.
In partnership with the office of Student-Faculty Programs at Caltech and its WAVE summer research program, KNI SURF-the-WAVE (STW) prize fellowships are given to select young researchers and provide additional opportunities for learning about STEM careers, graduate school and networking.
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Home Institution: University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
Academic Class Level: Rising senior
Major: Electrical Engineering
Summer research project description: "The title of my research project is 'Molecular coating of Cu/p-GaN for photoelectrochemical CO2 conversion'. We want to convert CO2 into valuable products. In this project, we will be creating Cu/p-GaN photocathodes and illuminating them with the full spectrum light with the purpose of not only exciting the Cu nanoparticles but also exciting the p-GaN semiconductor. In addition, we will coat the photocathodes with different additives and study how each coating affects our product selectivity. We are focused in studying the role of each component used and understanding how each one affects the performance of our photocathode."
Mentor: Prof. Harry A. Atwater
Co-mentor: Dr. Aisulu Aitbekova
Favorite Hobbies/Interests: "My favorite hobbies revolve around exercising. I love jogging, playing basketball and volleyball, and just keeping my body active. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends. My research interests lie in the fields of renewable energy and nanotechnology. However, I keep an open mind to any type of project that piques my interest."
Post-college Plans/Goals: "Upon graduation I plan on applying to graduate school and earning a PhD in electrical engineering. My short-term goals are to have a great summer completing and learning about my research project, and to start preparing myself for graduate school applications. In my long-term goals, I plan on becoming a professor in Puerto Rico and help other Hispanic students pursue careers in science and engineering."
Hometown: Queens, NY
Home Institution: Columbia University
Academic Class Level: Rising junior
Major: Applied Physics and Applied Math
Summer research project description: "This summer I'll be working on Atomic Layer Etching (ALE) methods for superconducting microresonators. Superconducting microresonators are highly versatile devices that confine light at particular frequencies, exhibiting resonant behavior. However, surface imperfections on these nanoscale devices cause two undesirable effects: resonant frequency noise, leading to readout fluctuations, and internal loss in the resonator. These surface imperfections can be mitigated by ALE which allows for control over production of these devices at the atomic level."
Mentor: Prof. Austin Minnich
Co-mentor: David Catherall
Favorite Hobbies/Interests: "Outside of research, I enjoy playing guitar, trying food trucks, and bankrupting myself at Barnes and Noble."
Post-college Plans/Goals: "After graduation, I hope to pursue a PHD in Physics and contribute to the growing quantum computing industry."
Hometown: Houston, TX
Home Institution: University of Virginia
Academic Class Level: Rising junior
Major: Physics major with a minor in Materials Science and Engineering
Summer research project description: "My summer research project is on 'Li5B7S13 as a Solid-State Lithium-Ion Electrolyte'. The Li5B7S13 polycrystal is predicted to have high ionic conductivity and degrade into other phases with high conductivity. This makes it an ideal candidate for solid state batteries. The first step of my project is to develop a method to synthesize Li5B7S13. From there, its ionic properties will be determined. Next, I will substitute silicone into the Li5B7S13 lattice with the goal of increasing its ionic conductivity. The result of this research could lead to safer batteries with much higher energy densities than those currently in use."
Mentor: Prof. Kimberly See
Co-mentor: Kim Pham
Favorite Hobbies/Interests: "In my free time I enjoy cooking new dishes, trying new restaurants, reading, doing yoga, sewing, and hanging out with friends."
Post-college Plans/Goals: "After graduating with my bachelor's degree, I plan on enrolling in a PhD program in materials science. I would like to continue researching methods of renewable energy generation and storage."
Hometown: Dallas, TX
Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Academic Class Level: Rising senior
Major: Double major in Physics and Plan II, a Liberal Arts honors degree program
Summer research project description: "My summer project is 'Scanning Tunneling Spectroscopy Studies on Strain Engineered Graphene and Transition Metal Dichalcogenides (TMDCs).' Graphene and TMDCs are two-dimensional materials with a variety of potential technological applications, including efficient electronics and energy storage. Creating mechanical strain in these materials induces a pseudo-magnetic field, which allows us to manipulate their electronic properties. We can then use Scanning Tunneling Microscopy, a spectroscopy technique that relies on the quantum tunneling phenomenon, to characterize the electronic behavior of our strained two-dimensional materials."
Mentor: Prof. Nai-Chang Yeh
Co-mentor: Akiyoshi Park
Favorite Hobbies/Interests: "In my spare time I love checking out books from the library, trying local restaurants and coffee shops (see: my food instagram @vegetareatin), spending too much money at the farmers' market, and going to concerts and baseball games."
Post-college Plans/Goals: "After college I plan to pursue a PhD in Physics or Applied Physics to continue researching quantum condensed matter for clean energy applications. I would also like to tie in an interdisciplinary aspect to my graduate studies, in an area such as science policy, education, or history, to contextualize my role in the world as a physicist."
Hometown: "I was born in Vancouver, Canada. I spent my childhood in Fujian, China. During elementary school, I moved to LA and stayed here ever since."
Home Institution: Entering Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a transfer student from Pasadena City College this Fall
Academic Class Level: Sophomore (MIT)
Major: Chemical Engineering
Summer research project description: "The emerging three-dimensional printing technologies have allowed for versatile applications in fields including, photonics, biology, and microelectromechanical systems. In particular, there is a desire to fabricate micro- and nanostructures that are made from nanocomposite materials because of their unique properties that are not available in single conventional materials. In fields of, but not limited to, mechanical metamaterials, hierarchical structure, and bio-inspired materials, the mechanical behaviors of materials are of great importance. In my research project, '3D Printed Kevlar Nanocomposites,' I will work to print nanocomposites that exhibit high mechanical strength through the two-photon lithography fabrication technique by incorporating aramid nanofibers (ANF) in acrylate/thiol photoresists. After completing the fabrication process, I will use the scanning electron microscope (SEM) to understand how ANF affects the microstructures by calculating the degree of shrinkage."
Mentor: Prof. Chiara Daraio
Co-mentor: Dr. Isreal Kellersztein and Dr. Joong Hwan Bahng
Favorite Hobbies/Interests: "In my spare time, I like to explore new restaurants or dessert spots. I also like to travel when I have the chance. I also play the piano and flute. I've also been trying to learn how to knit."
Post-college Plans/Goals: " I look forward to pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. I wish to conduct research in materials science to develop clean energy technologies at a national laboratory or research university."