Meet Our Past Interns - 2018

  • Alternative Energy
  • Choi, Hee Joo ’21

    Chemical and Biological Engineering
    PROJECT

    Ensuring the Sustainability of Perovskites, a Potentially Transformative Solar Material

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Myneni Group, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Satish Myneni, Professor of Geosciences; Clay Hamill, Ph.D. candidate, Chemical and Biological Engineering; Sara Thomas, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Geosciences

    Perovskite solar cells have recently gained popularity as a possible alternative to siliconbased solar cells due to easier and lower-cost manufacturing. They have yet to be commercialized, however, because perovskites are unstable and degrade quickly when exposed to elements such as humidity and oxygen. My internship explored the effect of humidity and air on the degradation patterns of tin-based and PEDOT-based (an organic mixture) electron transport layers in photovoltaic perovskite films. I monitored the environment in which films were degraded by manipulating the relative humidity, then taking X-ray diffraction (XRD) scans of the films throughout the stages of degradation. As a result of my internship, I learned to operate the XRD machine, interpret its data, and code in R software to create plots and overlay data. I also learned how to create perovskite films and their characteristics. My research will aid in understanding more about perovskite degradation and its byproducts. This internship helped me realize that I’d like my future career to be related to the environment. I’m also considering postgraduate education after my time at Princeton.

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  • Chen, Nick ’20

    Mechanical Engineering
    PROJECT

     Helmholtz Resonators for Energy Harvesting- Princeton, New Jersey

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Smits Fluid Mechanics Lab, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University

    MENTOR(S)

     Alexander Smits, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Emeritus; Daniel Floryan, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Tyler Van Buren, Lab Manager, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

    My project focused on generating electricity using Helmholtz resonance, which occurs when air flows over the opening of a container. This can result in powerful pressure fluctuations, and often produces an audible tone, such as when air blows across the opening of a bottle. I worked to improve the design of a prototype that combines Helmholtz resonance with piezoelectric elements — which produce an electric charge from mechanical stress such as vibration — to convert sound energy into electricity. Previous designs have only worked when compressed air is pumped directly over the opening of the resonator. I was tasked with altering this device to work in natural wind conditions. Through extensive observation and testing, and after building multiple prototypes, I successfully created an omnidirectional top insert for the resonator, allowing it to generate power in natural wind. My internship gave me the opportunity to create a successful device through research, design and analysis. This process broadened my understanding of how deeply connected creativity and technical understanding are to engineering and research.

  • Copeland , Charles ’19

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Understanding Contributions of Bioenergy to Mid-Century Decarbonization in the U.S.

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Energy Systems Analysis Group, Princeton University- Princeton, NJ

    MENTOR(S)

     Eric Larson, Senior Research Engineer, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

    Certificate(s): Environmental Studies

    I aimed to improve the estimates used to determine the potential for the development of a sustainable biofuels industry in the United States. I pursued two main questions. First, how much additional biomass could be harvested sustainably for a second-generation, cellulosic biofuels industry without depleting natural resources or competing with crops for land use? Second, how quickly could such an industry be built? After reviewing the literature, I concluded that some previous studies were overestimating the amount of corn stover — which consists of the plant’s leaves, stalks and cobs — that could be sustainably harvested. I developed my own constraints on the sustainable amount of corn stover that could be harvested for each county. I then used a simple model based on the cost of transport and yield to predict where, and in what order, cellulosic biofuel refineries are likely to be built. Using the development of the cornethanol industry as a model, I examined possible timeframes for the evolution of a cellulosic biofuels industry under different policy options. This experience has encouraged me to pursue a career combining policy, environment and energy science.

  • Dasgupta, Anushka ’19

    Chemical and Biological Engineering
    PROJECT

    Quality Control in Mg-Ion Battery Fabrication

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Arnold Group, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University-Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Craig Arnold, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Kai Filsinger, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials

    Certificate(s): Materials Science and Engineering

    I interned with the Arnold Group investigating the inconsistent performance of rechargeable magnesium-ion (Mg-ion) batteries. Mg-ion batteries are an attractive candidate for use in transportation and large-scale energy storage. They have a high theoretical volumetric capacity and are less susceptible to overheating than lithium-ion batteries. During the course of this project, I learned more about solid-state synthesis and the interpretation of X-ray diffraction patterns and impedance spectra. I gained an understanding of how each stage of battery fabrication impacts the performance of the assembled cell, and I became more familiar with the equipment used. My mentor and the other members of the lab taught me a great deal about intelligent experiment design and gave me a sense of life as a full-time researcher.

  • Gai, Sean ’20

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    Ensuring the Sustainability of Perovskites, a Potentially Transformative Solar Material

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Myneni Group, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Satish Myneni, Professor of Geosciences; Clay Hamill, Ph.D. candidate, Chemical and Biological Engineering; Sara Thomas, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Geosciences

    Certificate(s): Statistics and Machine Learning

    I had the opportunity to participate in research focused on the environmental factors affecting the degradation of perovskite films, which are a promising material for solar cells. The goal of this research was to mitigate, or prevent, the degradation of perovskites so that the lead they contain does not leach into the environment. This research could allow for the commercialization of stable perovskite solar cells with very high power-conversion efficiencies. My role was to expose perovskite films to different combinations of light, humidity and oxygen. I then used infrared spectrometry and X-ray diffraction to track the films’ degradation over time and determine the relative importance of each environmental factor. This experience taught me patience for scientific study — some ideas led to dead ends and some results did not match my predictions. I also learned how to visualize data by converting numerical figures into plots. Although I may not end up a scientist, I gained a variety of analytical and problem-solving skills through this experience.

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  • Kimojino, Joyce ’19

    Civil and Environmental Engineering
    PROJECT

    Energy-Access Modeling

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    CrossBoundary Energy; Dalberg Global Advisory-  Nairobi, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

     Mahiri Mwita, Lecturer in Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University; Gabriel Davis, Head of Energy Access, CrossBoundary Energy; Michael Bailman, Associate Principal, Dalberg Global Advisory

    Certificate(s): African Studies

    I had the opportunity to intern with an energyaccess NGO in Kenya. Like many developing countries, Kenya is struggling to provide its citizens with clean and sustainable energy. Although the country has the potential to generate ample solar energy, that sector has yet to take off. The aim of my internship was to apply data analysis to better understand what factors affect energy consumption, and to determine the lowest-cost energy solutions for Kenya and for Africa. I also worked on a predictive model to help solar-energy developers predict the demand for electricity in new locations and determine (within a small margin of error) the equipment needed to provide those communities with energy. Working with CrossBoundary Energy confirmed my interest in, and deep passion for, better understanding how renewable energies can help mitigate some of the world’s most challenging issues. I plan to pursue this research for my senior thesis and for a career in renewable energy.

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  • Mays, Rebecca ’21

    Chemical and Biological Engineering
    PROJECT

    Safer Lithium Batteries Through Control of Lithium Plating

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Arnold Group, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Craig Arnold, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Xinyi (Minnie) Liu, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

    The prevalence of lithium-ion batteries in everyday products, from calculators to cars, makes their safety and functionality a priority. Too many charges or defects within these batteries can lead to internal metallic growths known as dendrites that can cause cells to short circuit. My research focused on studying the effects of different defect sizes in a cell’s separator. I simulated defects by compressing portions of the separator to create pore closure. I then laser-cut rectangles of various sizes into each compressed separator. I accumulated hundreds of images of cells containing dendrites, which provided an average image of where they are more likely to occur in cells containing defects. My work this summer provided useful insight into an academic lab setting. It gave me more confidence and knowledge related to conducting research and obtaining reliable results.

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  • Owens, Caleb ’19

    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    PROJECT

    Mechanical Engineering and Design for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Lightening Energy-Picatinny Arsenal, Wharton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    Environmental Internship Program 15 The main goal of my internship was to develop innovative solutions for high-rate recharging batteries intended for vehicular use. My responsibilities included research, computer-aided design, 3D printing, and rapid prototyping and subsequent testing. I learned how to split my time between several different projects while working in a contract-based environment. My time at Lightening Energy sparked my interest in clean and alternative energy and electric vehicles. I intend to pursue this field when I enter the workforce next year.

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  • Penza, Matthew ’19

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    Understanding Analysis of μ Behaviors in Fusion Reactors

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Samuel Cohen, Director of Program in Plasma Science and Technology, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Certificate(s): Statistics and Machine Learning

    I interned at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) on the Small, Clean Fusion Reactors Project. My role was twofold. First, I implemented a time-series model of the nonadiabaticity (gaining or losing heat over time) of the magnetic strength of muon particles (μ) inside magnetic mirror machines. Second, I analyzed the characteristics of muon particles in diverging magnetic fields as a chaotic dynamical system that is highly sensitive to starting conditions. These are important properties to understand to further the development of the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) fusion reactor, a promising future source of clean energy. FRCs are unique among fusion-reactor designs because they are small enough to be transported intact, allowing for mobility and modularization. While working at PPPL, I had the opportunity to personally collect and analyze experimental data. This summer allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone as a computer science major, and it was a valuable chance to tackle an unfamiliar problem.

  • Preston, Alex ’21

    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    PROJECT

    Helmholtz Resonators for Energy Harvesting

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Smits Fluid Mechanics Lab, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Alexander Smits, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Emeritus; Daniel Floryan, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Tyler Van Buren, Lab Manager, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

    My research focused on attempting to improve the power-generation capabilities of a concept Helmholtz resonator wind-power harvester. The Helmholtz resonator is a container with specific dimensional requirements in neck size and cavity volume. Wind power is created when incoming air presses down on an installed piezoelectric disk, which produces voltage in response to physical deformation. I focused on examining the efficiency and maximum power generation of the most recent resonator setup and attempted to improve these figures through alterations to the system’s wiring. I gained insight into the world of academic research, valuable experience working on a substantial project in a small group environment, and a knowledge of conducting high-level research. These takeaways will help me in my coursework and as I write my senior thesis. The experience also has made me think about a potential future in academia, something I would not have considered before. I will be forever thankful to PEI and the entirety of Prof. Smits’ lab for this opportunity.

  • Rodriguez, Michael ’20

    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    PROJECT

    Mechanical Engineering and Design for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Lightening Energy- Picatinny Arsenal, Wharton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    Certificate(s):  Robotics and Intelligent Systems

    Batteries are a critical link for achieving widespread renewable energy. Lightening Energy seeks to mitigate current problems regarding weight and limited energy capacity by developing novel lithium-ion batteries that are lightweight and charge within minutes. These capabilities generate massive amounts of heat, which, if left unmanaged, can cause exothermic reactions such as batteries exploding. In collaboration with other interns, I used computer-aided design and computational fluid dynamics software to develop a prototype active-cooling system that would maintain the safety and performance of these battery systems. The team then assembled the prototype, which included parts we had machined using a computer numerical-control mill that cut pieces of custom-fit aluminum. I especially enjoyed Lightening Energy’s agility. Along with the other interns, I regularly joined, and contributed to, discussions with senior engineers and even the CEO. This gave me great insight into the workings of a small company.

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  • Santhanam, Hari ’20

    Electrical Engineering
    PROJECT

     Electrical Engineering for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

     Electrical Engineering for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles- Picatinny Arsenal, Wharton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

     Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    Certificate(s): Statistics and Machine Learning
    The goal of the project I worked on was for the electrical and mechanical teams to develop an efficient means of powering an industrial device. As part of the electrical team, I worked on wiring a battery management system to an arrangement of efficient cells. I also worked with other team members to ensure that we met certain checkpoints. As a result of participating in this internship opportunity, I gained a great deal of experience in hardware engineering, and I learned how to develop an idea into a prototype. My active role in this project helped me gain a new appreciation for alternative energy solutions, and I plan to seek environmentally conscious solutions in future projects.

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  • Sidhu, Harjot ’19

    Electrical Engineering
    PROJECT

    Electrical Engineering for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Lightening Energy- Picatinny Arsenal, Wharton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    I worked on creating a system-design prototype for the industrial application of a battery matrix, battery charger, and battery management system (BMS). Each subsystem consisted of its own challenges. For instance, it was important to create a battery matrix that safely and effectively held the batteries together and allowed them to charge and discharge. Interconnectivity between these subsystems was crucial in order for the design to operate efficiently. One of my main responsibilities was to establish a Controller Area Network (CAN bus) protocol. This allowed the BMS to communicate with the battery pack to determine if more charging was needed. My work furthered the research I did with Lightening Energy in summer 2017. I enjoyed being able to take theoretical research and build it, hands-on, into a prototype.

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  • Taylor, Benjamin ’19

    Physics
    PROJECT

    Modeling PFRC Reactor Scrape-Off Layer Using UEDGE

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Samuel Cohen, Director of Program in Plasma Science and Technology, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    I joined Professor Cohen’s working group studying the Princeton Field-Reversed Configuration (PFRC) nuclear fusion device. This device, which I had studied for my spring junior paper and will continue studying for my thesis, uses the alternative fuel Helium-3. This fuel is currently being prototyped for use in space propulsion. In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the PFRC, I focused on modeling the “scrape-off layer” — which is the outermost edge of the plasma within the device. To do this, I used a plasma “fluid” code known as UEDGE and a modeling framework called OMFIT. My contribution to the large body of work by previous interns was the implementation of a new and accurate geometry of the scrapeoff layer. I did this with the help of Gingred, a recently developed grid-generating program. I plan to conduct an in-depth analysis of this new geometry for my senior thesis. The time working with the lab group focused my interest in nuclear and plasma physics and increased my empathy for the cause of fusion energy.

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  • Willingham, Ashley ’20

    Operations Research and Financial Engineering
    PROJECT

    Financial Modeling and Optimization for Electric Mobility Business

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Lightening Energy-Picatinny Arsenal, Wharton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    Certificate(s): Engineering and Management Systems, Statistics and Machine Learning

    I created financial models for two projects related to the development of fast-recharging solutions for electric vehicles. For the first project, I developed a model for a commercial development program that uses component and operating expenditures to optimize costs, benefits and financial returns. I learned how to work with others outside of my field by collaborating with the mechanical and electrical engineering interns to understand their battery-pack design in order to create the model. For the second project, I worked on scaling a new chemistry of lithium-ion battery for production by conducting market research and a cost analysis. I also developed a model based off of the Battery Performance and Cost (BatPaC) model from Argonne National Laboratory. I learned about the materials science behind lithium-ion batteries and how battery chemistries affect performance. This internship increased my interest in alternative energy and electric vehicles, and it allowed me to experience working for a cutting-edge technology company.

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  • Zhang, Edward ’19

    Chemistry
    PROJECT

    Binary Transition-Metal Oxide Electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Koel Group, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Princeton University- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Bruce Koel, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Rachel Selinsky, Associate Research Scholar, Chemical and Biological Engineering; Xiaofang Yang, Visiting Research Collaborator, Chemical and Biological Engineering

    Certificate(s): Music Performance

    To make hydrogen gas a viable fuel and means of energy storage, we must tackle one of the biggest inefficiencies in water electrolysis (using electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas) — the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Ideally, we would like a highly active and inexpensive catalyst that is stable in concentrated acid. To this end, I designed and conducted experiments to see how well zirconium-iridium mixed oxides can act as electrocatalysts for OER. This involved synthesizing the catalyst using ionbeam sputtering, testing the catalyst in an electrochemical cell, and probing physical properties using various surface-science techniques, such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The mixed-oxide material acted as an electrocatalyst, and I found that these catalysts had excellent activity and improved stability compared to iridium oxide. As I intend to apply to graduate school, this experience offered me insights into my life ahead as a researcher.

  • Zhao, Jinjin ’19

    Computer Science
    PROJECT

    Pedestal Predictions Using Neural Networks

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory- Princeton, New Jersey

    MENTOR(S)

    Samuel Cohen, Director of Program in Plasma Science and Technology, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    I worked at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory researching the intersection of nuclear fusion and neural networks. Neural networks allow numerous machine learning algorithms to work together to process complex data. The goal of my project was to learn something about fusion data that cannot be explained by computational or theoretical models. This could help advance fusion reactors by allowing us to better predict the results of future experiments and, thus, design reactors that would achieve desired outcomes. I primarily worked on data collection, processing experimental results and measurements, and creating actual neural networks. I gained skills in dealing with experimental data, more experience working in machine learning, and a lot of knowledge about the state of fusion research. I am planning to extend my research into my senior thesis, so this internship has helped further my research journey.

  • Zheng, Fred ’19

    Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    PROJECT

    Mechanical Engineering and Design for High-Rate Recharging Vehicles

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Lightening Energy

    MENTOR(S)

    Eric Materniak ’14, Program Manager and Engineer, Lightening Energy

    Certificate(s): Robotics and Intelligent Systems

    I worked with Lightening Energy on thermal management in high-rate recharging batteries, which generate high amounts of heat when charging. I had the opportunity to design and manufacture a demonstration unit for a dedicated cooling system. This internship allowed me to practically apply the knowledge I learned in thermodynamics. I also learned multiple computational tools used in industry, such as Creo and Autodesk computational fluid dynamics software. Toward the end of the internship, I got the chance to manufacture parts using a computer numerical control (CNC) milling machine and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). This experience with CNC machining and computational modeling will help in my plans to enter the industry after graduation.

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  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Amatya, Amy ’21

    Geosciences
    PROJECT

    Acclimation Dynamics of a Tropical Coral to a Temperature-Induced Disturbance Event

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

    MENTOR(S)

    Samantha de Putron, Associate Scientist, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences; Gretchen Goodbody- Gringley, Assistant Scientist, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences

    I was part of a project studying the adaptive mechanisms of mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) against rapid climate change from the perspective of reproductive ecology. Studies of larval size are imperative to understanding coral fitness and thermal acclimation. Specimens with larger larvae exhibit higher adult survivorship. I investigated the effects of formalin fixation — preserving coral samples with aqueous formaldehyde — on larval volume, which would make coral-size studies more comprehensive and flexible. I photographed larvae every day to determine volume before and after fixation using machine learning-facilitated image analysis. I gained lab experience, greater familiarity with the MATLAB programming language, and guidance from kind and knowledgeable mentors. Most importantly, I came away with a better grasp of what it means to pursue meaningful work. Corals serve as valuable assays of marine biodiversity. They capture and communicate the universality of climate change. In this way, my summer experience inspired me to pursue socially impactful and globally relevant work in whichever field I follow.

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  • Brownell, Mckenna ’20

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    PROJECT

    Zebra Foraging Behavior in the Presence of Dung

    ORGANIZATION / LOCATION

    Mpala Research Centre- Nanyuki, Kenya

    MENTOR(S)

    Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

    Certificate(s): Spanish Language and Culture

    I conducted research to determine how the presence of dung affects the foraging behavior of Grévy’s and plains zebra. In ideal conditions, zebra will graze on the most nutrient-dense grass. The presence of dung helps to fertilize surrounding grass. Dung, however, contains parasites to which zebra are susceptible, specifically Strongyle nematodes. My team and I observed zebra grazing behavior by setting up artificial “plots” that controlled for the amount and location of dung. Camera traps recorded zebras grazing and from those data we were able to determine whether the animals take dung as a cue to graze elsewhere. A typical day in the field consisted of maintaining the plots, collecting fresh dung, and observing zebra as they grazed. This exciting internship opened doors for me in terms of pursuing research as a career, and it helped me apply the science I have learned in the classroom.

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  • Dietrich, Madeleine ’20

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology