Meet Our Past Interns - 2013

  • Climate and Energy
  • Badami, Pranav ‘15

    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.

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  • Bai, Vincent ‘14

    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.

  • Campbell, Ethan ‘16

    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.

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  • Catovic, Ismael ‘15

    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.

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  • Chang, Brian ‘16

    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.

  • Chang, Elliot ‘16

    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.

  • Constantin, Marius ‘14

    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.

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  • Eisenberg, Jacob ‘16

    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.

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  • Ekanem, Chantelle ‘16

    Chemical and Biological 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.

  • Gordon, Christopher Kwadwo ‘15

    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 Res

    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.

  • Gupta, Sarthak ‘14

    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!

  • Huang, Tzu-Yung ‘15

    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.

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  • Johnsen, Peter ‘15

    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.

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  • Lubkeman, Jordan ‘16

    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.

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  • MacDonagh, Aidan ‘14

    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.

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  • Masters, Nina ‘14

    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.

  • Materniak, Eric ‘14

    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.

  • McNellis, Ryan ‘15

    Operations Research and Financial Engineering
    PROJECT

    odels 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.

  • Nogueira, Marina ‘16

    Molecular Biology