2020 Energy Research Interns

August 27, 2020

Sai Mahit Vaddadi presenting his research at the 2019 Undergraduate Research and Service Scholar Celebratory Symposium

Sai Mahit Vaddadi presenting his research at the 2019 Undergraduate Research and Service Scholar Celebratory Symposium.

DEI, CCEI and RAPID Host 11 Undergraduate Students for Summer Research

Over 400 undergraduate students presented their research during the University of Delaware’s (UD) 2020 Undergraduate Research and Service Scholar Celebratory Symposium, capping off summer internship programs offered across the university.

The Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) and Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute at UD advised 11 undergrads as part of Delaware Energy Institute’s (DEI) Energy Research Internship (ERI), one of the university’s summer programs. The undergraduates selected conduct in-depth research under the mentorship of researchers and faculty members.

Students typically focus on computational and experimental research. This year, with a remote learning structure in place, students focused solely on computational work. Examples of research conducted include: heat of chemisorption and role of proton transfer in zeolites; superstructure optimization of a modular food waste valorization process; modeling the gas diffusion electrode for carbon dioxide reduction; and breaking the oxygen linkages in lignin over the metastable RuCu alloy.

ERI students are extremely motivated and well disciplined, largely working independently. They submit weekly reports to track their findings. Mentor Himaghna Bhattacharjee had weekly Zoom meetings with his mentee to discuss progress, debug common issues and provide general guidance.

Gerhard Wittreich, who has been mentoring the same undergraduate since last summer’s ERI program, noted that communication was key this year. Wittreich and his mentee were used to working in a shared space where he could easily answer small inquiries that came up throughout the day. The duo found that meeting once a week while working remotely was not always enough, and would increase frequency as needed.

Despite being remote, the program was well received and even had its perks.

“One huge improvement was the symposium being online,” said Christopher Tiso, a chemical engineering major who participated in the ERI program last year. “It allowed me to see everyone’s posters and I was able to do it at my own pace,”

According to chemical engineering major Matthew Marino, the virtual approach was an easier way to digest information and craft detailed responses to questions.

Tiso, along with several other students, enjoyed being able to work from the comfort of their own home. “I was able to work like normal at my house and still be in touch with everyone,” said Sai Mahit Vaddadi, chemical engineering major.

Select students will continue their work with their mentors throughout the coming school year. To learn more or register for the Energy Research Internship program, click here.

Article by Jaynell Keely | Photo by Jaynell Keely