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Summer Scholars embrace engineering challenges

Diverse group seeks MIT laboratory internship experiences in materials science, photonics, energy, and biomedical applications.
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Twelve National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates interns, co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, and two AIM Photonics Academy interns will conduct research from June 15 to August 5 on the MIT campus. 2017 MIT Summer Scholars: (top row, l-r) Alejandro Aponte-Lugo, Stephanie Bauman, Lucia Brunel, Richard Canty, ...
Twelve National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates interns, co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, and two AIM Photonics Academy interns will conduct research from June 15 to August 5 on the MIT campus. 2017 MIT Summer Scholars: (top row, l-r) Alejandro Aponte-Lugo, Stephanie Bauman, Lucia Brunel, Richard Canty, Stuart Daudlin; (middle row, l-r) Amrita Duggal, Kaila Holloway, Saleem Iqbal, Ryan Kosciolek; and (bottom row, l-r) Gaetana Michelet, Grace Noel, Alexandra Oliveira, Kirill Shmilovich, and Luke Soule.

This year’s incoming MIT Summer Scholars hope to probe the range of materials science engineering challenges for nanoscale applications in medicine, electronics, and photonics, while at the same time pinpointing their future graduate school research goals. 

“This [Research Experience for Undergraduates] will expose me to topics and concepts that I will be able to apply to my advanced classes, as well as give me hands-on experience in a lab environment,” says Stephanie E. Bauman, a University of South Florida sophomore. “I'm also hoping that it will help me determine a direction for graduate school.” Bauman, a U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) Blackhawk Medical Evacuation pilot, comes to MIT with 19 years of military service. Her unit won the Army Aviation Association of America USAR Unit of the Year Award for accomplishments during its 2012 deployment to Afghanistan. “Some of the types of research focus I am interested in are graphene, metamaterials, nanomaterials and their usage, especially relating to space applications. I also have a strong interest in neuroscience, as well,” Bauman says.

Lucia G. Brunel, a Northwestern University junior, conducted research during summer 2015 at Polytechnic of Milan under Professor Davide Moscatelli on nanoparticle polymers to control the rate of drug release, and was a co-author on Moscatelli’s 2016 Macromolecules article, which offered a theory decoupling the size from the molecular weight for these nanoparticles. “My long-term plans are to remain in academia, conducting polymer science research and teaching at the university level,” Brunel says. “I hope that this research experience at MIT will help me continue to develop the skills required to be a successful researcher in graduate school and eventually as a professor leading my own laboratory.”

For the first time, two AIM Photonics Academy interns will join weekly sessions of the 12 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates interns, who are co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. The program runs from June 15 to August 5 on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming this new group of bright, talented undergraduates to campus, and to a rewarding and productive summer together,” says MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering Education Officer Susan Rosevear.

University of Michigan junior Stuart R. Daudlin, who will be one of the AIM Photonics Academy interns, hopes to work with design and simulation tools to learn about the physics and manufacturing processes of photonic devices. “Using these computational methods, I hope to develop design parameters for optimized device performance,” he says. “I am most looking forward to being immersed in a cohort of MIT researchers and the other undergraduate interns,” adds Daudlin, who is majoring in engineering physics.
“MIT is synonymous with innovation and development,” notes Amrita (Amy) Duggal, who, like Bauman, also served in Afghanistan. Duggal, who left her home in India at 17 for the United States, served for six years in the U.S. Navy Seabees. “Observing and working with highly intellectual and accomplished mentors will help me, both, narrow down and clarify my future career goals even further,” she says. Duggal was part of the winning team last summer in the PIPELINES [Problem-based Initiatives for Powerful Engagement and Learning In Naval Engineering and Science] eight-week program co-sponsored by the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Navy Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center at Port Hueneme, California. Duggal’s project focused on designing an automated solar panel cleaning system that would remove dust from panels in desert conditions.

Pennsylvania State University junior Grace H. Noel hopes to work with research in nanotechnology, photonics, or electrochemistry.  “I am especially interested in applications for renewable energy technology, including photovoltaics and energy storage,” she says. Since she hopes to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering, Noel says, “This experience will help me develop research skills and figure out what areas I want to study in graduate school. I feel fortunate to have this great opportunity that will help me prepare for my future.”

Kirill Y. Shmilovich, a University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee junior, plans to develop new skills at MIT this summer in engineering and instrument programming, as well as learning new theory and mathematical modeling. “Everything that will make me a competitive applicant to graduate schools and employers alike,” he hopes.

Luke P. Soule is most looking forward to working closely with great mentors. “I can't wait to learn from researchers with years of experience and great ideas,” the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology junior says. “Completing this internship would be a big step forward in my career as a research scientist. I will learn to tackle problems in science like the pros do!”

Gaetana H. Michelet, a University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez mechanical engineering major, is leaning towards bioengineering and medicine. “I am eager to acquire as much hands on experience as I can in order to apply the theoretical concepts I have studied in college. I would then use this knowledge to elaborate and conceive biological and medical applications,” she says.

Participating in a college team building a chemically powered car motivated University of Connecticut sophomore Alexandra Oliveira to pursue research in chemical engineering. During her summer internship, she would like to work on lithium ion batteries. “This experience will help me develop a greater understanding of chemical and materials engineering, and prepare me to pursue a graduate degree in my field. It will also teach me to be a better scientist, student, and thinker,” Oliveira says.

Howard University junior Kaila Holloway has lab experience making silver phosphate nanoparticles and recreating miroestrol, a plant-based estrogen compound. “As a chemistry major, research experience is crucial to my success and can make me a more qualified applicant for any post-baccalaureate opportunities,” she says. She hopes the Summer Scholars program will help her to hone her skills as a researcher and gain practical knowledge only available outside the classroom.

Rutgers University junior Ryan N. Kosciolek, a double major in physics and mathematics, will be an AIM Photonics Academy intern. “I am most looking forward to getting a chance to meet and work alongside the world renowned researchers and faculty at the Materials Processing Center,” he says. Kosciolek believes the potential of integrated photonics is still largely untapped and hopes to both design and test new nonlinear photonic devices during the summer.

Saleem Iqbal, a University of New Mexico junior majoring in physics, hopes to become a research scientist in academia or industry. “I'm excited to learn more about how advances in condensed matter physics and photonics can be applied to transformative applications in materials science. This summer at MIT will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience and a great stepping stone towards my goal of becoming a research scientist,” Iqbal says.

Richard B. (Ben) Canty, a University of Virginia junior, plans to pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering with a focus on nanoreactors. He hopes his summer internship will give him the opportunity to explore the field of nanoscience, particularly nanoreactors, to advance production capabilities in health or energy fields.  

Alejandro Aponte-Lugo is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM), majoring in mechanical engineering. “I am passionate about the idea of combining vibrations and sound waves to alter or generate a specific internal structure of a material,” he says. Aponte is a co-author, along with 2016 Summer Scholar Ashley Del Valle and three others, of an IEEE Xplore conference report, “A solar simulation research with an academic learning experience,” explaining how UPRM’s Solar Simulator Research Team designed and built a solar simulator. Eduardo I. Ortiz Rivera supervised the undergraduate team.    

The majority of the interns will select their own projects from faculty presentations given during the first few days of the program. However, the two photonics participants are already assigned their mentors. Stuart Daudlin will work on “Statistical Modeling of Photonic Device Variations” with Duane Boning, the Clarence J. LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and Ryan Kosciolek will work on “Nonlinear Photonic Devices” with MIT Microphotonics Center Principal Research Scientist Anuradha (Anu) Agarwal.

“It seems like a wonderful opportunity. Anu and Duane are very excited about their students, and it will tie them into a broader network so that they become part of the AIM family of universities,” says Julie Diop, program manager for AIM Photonics Academy. AIM Photonics Academy interns are part of “AIM Photonics Future Leaders: Research and Professional Skills Training Program,” which also will have participants at University of California at Santa Barbara, University of Arizona and the State University of New York Polytechnic Albany. AIM Photonics interns from the four participating universities will convent at UCSB Aug. 10-11.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates internships are supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program. Participants will present their results at a poster session the last week of the program.

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