Meet Our Past Interns - 2014
- Climate and Energy
Baik, EJ ’16Civil and Environmental EngineeringPROJECT
Measuring Methane Leakage from Abandoned Oil and Gas WellsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Princeton University Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and Public and International Affairs, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Denise Mauzerall, Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public and International Affairs
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is contributing to global warming, a fact which underlines the importance of monitoring methane leakage sources around the world. Abandoned oil and gas wells are a significant source of methane that has not been explored before. For this internship, I was responsible for looking at the geologic formations of the abandoned oil and gas wells we measured. Geologic formation provides important background information for abandoned oil and gas wells as it shows what oil or gas fields the wells may be tapping into. This summer, I worked a lot with ArcGIS, a mapping and spatial analysis program. It was a wonderful experience, learning a new programming language as well as learning more of what a research opportunity at a university entails. It was also valuable meeting and talking to people who were working in the field in which I was interested. As a junior, I will be continuing my work throughout this semester as an independent study. Using the geologic information that I obtained, I will be expanding on this topic to explore the effective permeability of the wells that we observed over the summer.
Bechler, Scott ’17GeosciencesPROJECT
Environmental Behavior of Indium, an Element Critical to Emerging Energy TechnologiesORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Sarah Jane White, Visiting Associate Research Scholar, Geosciences
The focus of my project this summer was to determine the environmental effects that a new solar material, organometal (lead) halide perovskites, could have if it was used commercially. This solar material has seen rapid increases in efficiency, but it is still unstable compared with its counterparts, silicon based solar panels, which are currently in use today. Furthermore, the new material contains lead, which is toxic and could cause serious consequences if released into the environment. This summer I worked in Guyot Hall on campus and leached functional solar cells (with efficiencies of about 8%) with synthetic rainwater. The solar cells were received from a collaborator at the University of Washington, and the formulas for the synthetic rainwaters came from the Environmental Protection Agency and have been used on solar panel waste in the past. I found that large amounts of lead were leached from these solar cells, so my goal in the future is to try to optimize the structure of the solar cell so that we can maximize its efficiency while minimizing its environmental effects. After this incredible opportunity working in the Geosciences Department, I decided to pursue geosciences as my concentration. I plan to continue working with my advisor on this project.
Byers, Conleigh ’15Civil and Environmental EngineeringPROJECT
International Energy SecurityORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Bureau of Energy Resources, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DCMENTOR(S)
Faith Corneille Rios, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Energy Resources, Office of Electricity and Energy Efficiency
I spent the summer in the Energy Transformation Group at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources, which leads government efforts to promote international energy security. My placement was in the Office of Electricity and Energy Efficiency, which works globally to transition power systems to more sustainable fuels and technologies and achieve sustainable and global access to electricity. One of my major projects was researching developmental stages of electricity markets post-liberalization with the goal of identifying best practices to promote grid capacity expansion, reduce system losses, and encourage the entrance of independent generators. I also consulted on the feasibility of hybrid solar-diesel microgrid solutions for U.N. refugee camps, drawing on experience I had gained last summer in Jordan. My internship this summer gave me insight into how a federal agency operates and helped me develop skills in effectively conveying technical knowledge in the policy sphere, which will be critical if I decide to pursue a career in energy policy.
Cannon, Joann ’15GeosciencesPROJECT
Studying the Past Carbon Cycle with Fossil-Bound Organic MatterORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Sigman Lab, Princeton University, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Daniel Sigman, Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
My PEI summer internship in the Sigman Lab focused on developing a method for measuring the carbon isotopic ratios of organic matter trapped in planktonic foraminifera fossils from a tropical Atlantic sediment core using a mass spectrometer. Our goals were to better understand the carbon cycle over the past 800,000 years and to investigate how biological and chemical changes in the ocean affected past atmospheric carbon concentrations. Over the summer, I researched and collected a shallow North Atlantic sediment core from the Lamont-Doherty Core Repository and then extracted and sorted the different species of foraminifera fossils from the sediment. I cleaned the extracted foraminifera according to a pre-determined procedure and then prepared the samples for mass spectrometer analysis. I ran the samples in the mass spectrometer and analyzed the resulting carbon isotope ratios. I learned all the hands-on skills of how to process sediment core samples from beginning to end: obtaining a core, picking out the desired fossil species, cleaning and prepping the samples, analyzing them in a mass spectrometer, and interpreting the results. This internship has encouraged me to continue doing research on this topic for my senior thesis and to possibly pursue graduate studies in this field.
Chang, Elliot ’16Civil and Environmental EngineeringPROJECT
Use of Alginate and Chitosan to Purify Leaf Distillates of Organic ContaminantsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Kelly Caylor, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Stephen Pacala, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Adam Wolf, Associate Research Scholar, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The goal of my Smith-Newton Research Project this summer was to purify tree distillates of organic contaminants using algae and chitosan hydrogel beads. The current standard of using activated charcoal as a purifying agent is not sufficient. My solution to this, a new bio-sorption technique using algae and chitosan to purify these tree distillates of organic contaminants, looks to be promising in allowing for more accurate study of water isotopes, and allows for a deeper study of water transportation amongst competing trees. This summer, I increased my familiarity with cryogenic vacuum distillations, and learned how to use Picarro Incorporated’s Isotope Ratio Infrared Spectrometer, giving me the necessary skill sets to analyze and understand water isotopes. This research project will be used to inform my senior thesis. I look forward to continuing my work with mentor, Adam Wolf, and civil and environmental engineering professor Kelly Caylor, in understanding the effects of organic contamination on measuring isotopic signatures of water.
Chen, Emily ’17GeosciencesPROJECT
What's Going on with Antarctic Sea Ice? Insight from Climate ModelsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Geosciences Dept., Princeton University, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Jorge Sarmiento, Professor, Geosciences; Carolina Dufour, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; Adele Morrison, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
In contrast to the Arctic sea ice, which has been decreasing, the Antarctic sea ice has been growing at a small but significant rate in the past decades. My PEI summer internship aimed to understand the mechanisms that are driving the sea ice growth around Antarctica. To analyze the trend and test possible contributors, I worked with several different climate models, primary from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lab in Princeton, NJ. My analysis determined that the primary driving mechanisms of the Antarctic sea ice trend were natural variability and indicated convection—the transport of cold water down and the transport of warmer water to the surface. From this internship, I not only learned how to code in Python (a programming language), but I also gained a general understanding of the climate, oceans, and atmosphere through the many seminars, journal club meetings, and weekly read-throughs of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. This experience has shaped my future academic study, as I plan to major in geological engineering, which is sponsored by both the Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Geosciences departments.
Cheung, Tiffany ’15GeosciencesPROJECT
Multimedia Science Communication on the Southern Ocean Role in the Climate SystemORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Climate Central, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Jorge Sarmiento, Professor, Geosciences; Heidi Cullen, Climate Central
As a multimedia communications intern at Climate Central, a non-partisan climate research and journalism organization, I worked on a number of projects supporting the organization’s research and media outreach programs. One such project was to develop an online portal for Professor Jorge Sarmiento’s Southern Ocean Project, “Unlocking the Mysteries of the Southern Ocean,” using a storyboard layout. This portal will engage the public about the importance of the Southern Ocean, while furthering interest in its related current scientific research. I also researched various media sources to evaluate public perception of the role of climate change in extreme weather events, such as the 2013 Australia Heat Wave, as part of Climate Central’s new “World Weather Attribution” project. Furthermore, I examined media coverage of the organization’s work on a daily basis, coverage which ranged from weather broadcasts in local television markets to climate research reports published in national outlets. From my internship experience, I learned the importance of science communication, particularly in furthering public awareness of today’s climate research. I will continue my work at Climate Central as a media analyst during the school year, tracking media coverage, aiding with press releases, and monitoring the progress of Climate Central’s “Climate Matters” program with local broadcast meteorologists.
Chiu, Carol ’16Chemical and Biological EngineeringPROJECT
Global Change and Primary Production in Polar WatersORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Morel Group, Geosciences Department, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
François Morel, Professor, Geosciences
For my PEI internship this summer, I focused on two projects in the Geosciences Department. My first project was to study nitrogen fixation occurring in microbial samples taken from Sippewissett Marsh in Massachusetts and the Everglades in Florida. I measured the N2 fixation rate in these samples using the acetylene reduction assay (ARA). My second project was to isolate and identify a siderophore or Fe-binding complex produced by the purple nonsulfur bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris under Fe-deplete conditions. Throughout this project, I obtained a diversity of skills such as cell culturing and harvesting, cell counting, protein and pigment extraction, microscopy, using the GC-FID, using the spectrophotometer, and performing the CAS Assay and BCA Protein Assay. Nonetheless, I believe that the most important skill I obtained as a result of this internship is the ability to troubleshoot equipment and interpret experimental data. My wonderful experience doing research in the Geosciences Department this summer has encouraged me to continue doing research with R. palustris during the academic year. Currently, I am studying the potential of the bacterium as a source of biofuel for my junior independent work.
Das, Bristee ’16Chemical and Biological EngineeringPROJECT
Crystallization of Perylene Diimides for Organic Field-Effect TransistorsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Loo Organic and Polymer Electronics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Lynn Loo, Professor, Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering
This summer, I worked on a research project optimizing the performance of organic field effect transistors (OFETs). The field effect transistor is a major component of modern electronics and circuitry. In particular, the OFET is a type of field effect transistor made up of a polymer or organic small molecule. Interest in OFETs within the energy and scientific communities has piqued over the last few decades due to their low cost, easy processability, and potential for a variety of applications, such as large-scale displays. Throughout the summer, I investigated various methods to control and direct the crystallization process within the channel region of the transistors, which is important since controlling crystallization can help optimize the electrical output and conductivity of the transistor and thus lead to high performance. By the end of the summer, I gained skills relevant to the fabrication of OFETs, was able to extend materials science concepts I had learned in the classroom, and learned the importance of making the best of both every failure and success. My summer research helped cement my passion for and interest in materials engineering in the energy sector, and I am excited for what the future has in store.
Fang, Allen ’17MathematicsPROJECT
Effects of Insect Attacks on Forest Carbon SinksORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Medvigy Research Group, Princeton University, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
David Medvigy, Assistant Professor, Geosciences
As a research assistant studying the New Jersey Pine Barrens, I used and modified the Ecosystem Demography 2 model to analyze how periodic gypsy moth defoliation affects the ability of the Pine Barrens to act as a carbon sink. The New Jersey Pine Barrens is a unique environment where pines and oaks are the dominant tree species. In an undisturbed environment, oaks thrive better than pines. However, the gypsy moth periodically defoliates the Pine Barrens, with a heavy preference for oak over pine trees. This causes changes in forest composition and growth, as well as alterations in the nitrogen, carbon, and water cycles. Using the Ecosystem Demography 2 model, I looked at the relationship between ecosystem heterogeneity and the effects of the gypsy moth defoliation. I gained insight into how to design and build models, as well as how to debug and organize code. This internship helped me realize how interested I am in applied math, and the many ways in which math can be utilized in the sciences.
Goodman, Jesse ’17Computer SciencePROJECT
Encapsulating Phase-Change Materials in Nanoparticles via Layer-by-Layer AssemblyORGANIZATION / LOCATION
McAlpine Lab, USAMENTOR(S)
Michael McAlpine, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Protein-loaded microspheres have recently gained influence through promising applications such as drug delivery and tissue engineering. However, it has always been challenging to control the release rate of the loaded protein(s). This summer, I worked to understand how certain fabrication parameters affect the release profiles of these microspheres. My project focused on monitoring the release of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) from PLGA microspheres manufactured via the double emulsion solvent evaporation method. After tweaking certain parameters in the fabrication process, I could then monitor how these changes affected the release of HRP over a 24-hour time period. Through collaboration with another research group in the Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) department, mathematical models describing the parameters versus protein release relationship were developed and used to target specific protein release profiles. Such optimization techniques were necessary, as each release profile experiment proved to be tedious and time-consuming. While this internship did not alter my choice of concentration, computer science, it did provide me with the invaluable experience of playing a major role in a professional research project.
Grosskopf, Abby ’17Chemical and Biological EngineeringPROJECT
Crystallization in Constrained ChannelsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
The Loo Group, Princeton University Organic and Polymer Electronics Laboratory, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Daniel Sigman, Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
My internship with the Loo Group exposed me to the world of materials science and organic electronics. This summer I worked with Triethylsilylethynyl anthradithiophene (TES ADT), a solution-processable organic semiconductor. Thin films of TES ADT spherulites, a type of crystal, have lots of exciting applications such as solar cells, and organic thin film transistors. My task was to develop and refine methods for growing TES ADT in narrow channels. By understanding more about the growth of TES ADT in channels, we hope to pattern electronics in more elaborate and efficient ways to create new devices and save energy. Recently collaborators in Mikko Haataja’s group in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department developed a computational model of TES ADT growth and theorized that below a critical channel width, the crystallization process becomes arrested by physical forces. In order to verify these results experimentally, I used patterning techniques to fabricate constrained channels and observe the crystallization behavior of TES ADT. I learned new lab techniques, data analysis skills, and the fundamentals of day-to-day laboratory research. I have a new perspective on the vast amount of applications of chemical engineering in scientific research, and hope to use what I learned this summer in future independent work.
Huang, Stacey ’16Electrical EngineeringPROJECT
Environmental Trace Gas MonitoringORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Clausthal University of Technology, GermanyMENTOR(S)
Michael Köhring, Technical University of Clausthal
There is a continuing need for sensitive and durable gas sensors for use in fields such as environmental monitoring and regulation of emissions. Quartz-Enhanced Photoacoustic Spectroscopy (QEPAS) is a flexible technique that takes advantage of a quartz tuning fork to sense pressure changes induced by modulated laser light in a gas sample. This technique offers many advantages over traditional spectroscopy techniques and is an attractive choice for countless applications. This summer, I worked at Clausthal University of Technology to examine and further develop existing QEPAS technologies being built up for various industry applications in gas sensing. I was able to work with both optical and electrical components, running calibration tests on a laser used for methane sensing, testing optimal LEDs for an ozone detection system, and finally constructing as well as optimizing existing circuitry to be integrated in a system for measuring nitric oxide. By working alongside a myriad of researchers, I was able to begin developing an effective approach toward problem-solving and working efficiently. I was able to gain both valuable first-hand as well as theoretical knowledge, and I look forward to continuing down the road in the field of electronics and laser spectroscopy.
Kolmes, Elijah ’15PhysicsPROJECT
Innovative Fusion Confinement ConceptsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Samuel Cohen, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
The primary goal of my internship at PPPL was to study fast ion slowing-down rates in a background plasma. I used software called LSP to simulate fast ions slowing down under the conditions that might be found in a field-reversed configuration (FRC) device. FRCs are a potential alternative to the mainline approach to magnetic confinement, with a couple of significant advantages. Fast ion slowing-down is important to the performance of these devices. I measured the dependence of the slowing-down rate on a number of factors, including the charge of the fast ions and the density of the plasma. I also investigated a couple of different properties of the simulation software itself. In particular, LSP simplifies physical systems by clumping together individual particles into macroparticles, and I studied the implications that this had for our results. During this summer, I learned a great deal about computational plasma physics, and about scientific research in general. This project has reinforced my interest in pursuing physics research in the future.
Lavrov, Nicholas ’15Chemical and Biological EngineeringPROJECT
Photochemistry at Hematite (Fe2O3) Surfaces for Production of Renewable HydrogenORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Princeton University Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Bruce Koel, Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
With the increasing costs of fossil fuels and the continual introduction of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, providing clean, renewable energy has become an intense area of research. One alternative fuel source is hydrogen gas obtained from water splitting. In order for hydrogen fuel to become a viable fuel source, however, efficient means of water splitting must be developed. This summer, I worked in a lab with the goal of creating a catalyst that would lower the voltage required to split water, making it more economically feasible. I explored the use of plasma treatment to alter the surface of iron, nickel and cobalt foils to reach this goal. I learned how to use characterization techniques such as electrochemical tests, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and applied my knowledge of chemistry to determine the effects of the plasma on the metal surfaces. By the end of the summer, we saw minor improvements in the water splitting efficiency. I was able to contribute to a growing body of research, and I hope to see more improvements in this research in the future. I enjoyed putting to work some of the concepts I have learned in my engineering courses.
Lin, Jonathan ’17Computer SciencePROJECT
Identifying Mechanisms for Pacific Warm Pool Acidification with Earth System ModelsORGANIZATION / LOCATION
Princeton Environmental Institute, Princeton, NJMENTOR(S)
Stephan Fueglistaler, Assistant Professor Geosciences; Keith Rodgers, Research Scholar, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
This summer, I collaborated with Keith Rodgers of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department in calculating the effects of human-induced changes on marine organisms and ocean ecosystems. Specifically, we used the trends and noise of the ESM2M model to calculate when ocean acidification, ocean warming, ocean de-oxygenation, and biological changes would emerge and become measurable. This topic was especially important as the cumulative impact of multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems may lead to damage far more severe than that from individual threats alone. Throughout the summer, I definitely gained an open perspective to what life is like as a graduate student in geosciences (specifically atmospheric and oceanic science). I also gained many scientific critical thinking skills, and developed a methodical approach to attacking scientific problems. Before this summer I was already interested in atmospheric sciences, and this internship definitely influenced my interest in the broader atmospheric and ocean system. I look forward to taking more courses in these areas.
Ma, Daniel ’17Operations Research and Financial Engineering