Summer projects in motion Featured

Lab assignments for MIT Materials Research Laboratory undergraduate researchers and  teachers cut across disciplines.

From simulating the physics of spinning magnetic particles to fabricating new materials for infrared chemical sensing, MIT Materials Research Laboratory summer researchers will challenge themselves to learn new skills and develop new scientific insights.

A diverse group of top-performing undergraduates from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico as well as local community college students and teachers, these interns will spend the summer doing research in MIT faculty labs with support from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) programs, NSF CAREER award, the AIM Photonics Academy and the MRL Collegium.

Community College students and teachers were assigned their lab placements, but the group of 12 Summer Scholars chose their lab placements after hearing presentations from 19 faculty members and touring their labs over three days. MIT Professors and Research Scientists participating in the presentations come from the departments of materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, aeronautics and astronautics, biological engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, and physics.

Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Alfredo Alexander-Katz is leading a summer project with potential to apply machine learning to the game-like motion of magnetic particles spinning in a neutral-particle medium and discovering how they form crystal shapes. “Programming is a great experience,” Alexander-Katz says. Oregon State University rising senior physics major Ryan Tollefsen, who will work with Alexander-Katz, expressed his interest immediately after a lab tour. “I’ve been coding physics simulations in Python for the last year and a half,” Tollefsen says. “It’s definitely my favorite I’ve seen out of everything so far,” he says.

Sarai Patterson, a University of Utah materials science and engineering major, chose to work in the lab of ARCO Career Development Professor William A. Tisdale, where she’ll tackle a project to study halide perovskite nanocrystals for energy conversion. “I worked in a characterization lab for two years at school, but this is different types of characterization that I’ve never done before with the laser lab and optical properties. So I’m really excited about the characterization of these nanocrystals,” Patterson says.

Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Juejun (JJ) Hu is developing new materials for nonlinear integrated photonics based on the chalcogen elements of silicon, selenium and tellurium. These materials, known as chalcogenide glasses, can be used for infrared sensing and imaging. Alvin Chang, an Oregon State University Biological Engineering major, with a minor in Entrepreneurship, says, “I was kind of drawn to that because I wanted to seek a project that was sort of related to my work at my home institution but also branching off. … I’ve worked with optics before, so I kind of know how it goes, but this is the first time I’ve heard about nonlinear photonics. So I thought that was a very interesting field to study.”

Bruce Quinn, from Roxbury Community College, will intern in Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Rafael Jaramillo’s lab through the new Guided Academic Industry Network (GAIN) program, which is funded through Jamarillo’s National Science Foundation CAREER award. Jaramillo’s lab is developing new electronic materials from special compounds known as complex chalcogenides.

The summer researchers will present their results at a Poster Session on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.

Intern MIT Placement Home Institution
Astatke Assaminew Katharina Ribbeck Roxbury Community College
Danielle Beatty Elsa Olivetti University of Utah
Alvin Chang Juejun [JJ] Hu Oregon State University
Simon Egner Dr. Anu Agarwal University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
Zhirong Fan Fikile Brushett​ Bunker Hill Community College
Heather Giblin Katharina Ribbeck Brookline High School, Biology teacher​
Elizabeth [Lily] Hallett Karl Berggren University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Juan Hincapie Riccardo Comin Roxbury Community College
Credoritch Joseph Rob Macfarlane Roxbury Community College 
Julianna La Lane Fikile Brushett University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Minhua Mei Dr. Mehmet Kanik Bunker Hill Community College
Michael Molinski Rafael Jaramillo

University of Rhode Island

Wendy Moy Riccardo Comin Diamond Middle School, Physical Science teacher, Lexington
Abigail Nason​ Brian Wardle University of Florida​
Fernando Nieves Munoz Krystyn Van Vliet University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Sarai Patterson William Tisdale University of Utah
Bruce Quinn Rafael Jaramillo Roxbury Community College
Sabrina Shen Markus Buehler Johns Hopkins University
Kimberly Stieglitz Rob Macfarlane Roxbury Community College, Chemistry and Biotechnology Professor
Ryan Tollefsen Alfredo Alexander-Katz Oregon State University
Ekaterina [Stella] Tsotsos Caroline Ross Brown University

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Denis Paiste, MIT Materials Research Laboratory
June 25, 2018