Meet the next generation of researchers: our summer interns
Summer interns at Argonne often contribute as much as they take away from working in one of the top energy labs in the country.
Come meet with Argonne summer interns at the “Learning on the Lawn” student symposium Wednesday, August 3, 2016, at noon on the west lawn of the Building 213 Cafeteria. Over 90 students will be presenting their research in an outside poster presentation session.
We sat down with four of our promising young researchers to learn how their summer has gone.
Allison Villegas Roman
Energy Systems Division, Phytotechnologies
Allison Villegas Roman graduated from Hunter College in New York this spring, where she majored in anthropology, human rights and environmental studies with an earth science concentration.
Villegas Roman was drawn to science as an essential policy tool in conflict areas.
“Science is in everything, even if you don’t think about it,” she said.
Here at Argonne, Villegas Roman spends her days analyzing the potential benefits of planting biofuel crops in Cristina Negri’s (ES) phytotechnologies group.
Along with being a source of energy, these crops could help to decrease soil temperatures, increase carbon sequestration and cultivate biodiversity. Bio-crops can also prevent nutrient runoff into watershed areas, preventing its spread to the surrounding environment (where it can cause algal blooms that choke out other life).
“The cool thing about my project is we don’t only do lab work,” Villegas Roman said. “We get to do field work too, and to see how researchers plan long term lab projects.”
For her individual research, Villegas Roman scoured reports and economic models to develop a more comprehensive picture of biofuels.
She plans to attend Columbia University starting this fall for her master’s degree in climate and society.
Energy Systems Division, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions
Bryce Smith is a junior electrical and electronics engineering major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Over the past year, Smith has worked with the University of Illinois EcoCAR team to build energy-efficient vehicles and compete in the annual Shell eco-marathon. EcoCAR is a competition held by the DOE that challenges 16 North American university teams to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Camaro.
“The end goal is to identify the object and then get the distance to the object, using two cameras to triangulate position,” Smith said. “When you’re driving, you want to be able to see a stop sign at a great enough distance to be able to stop.”
Nuclear Engineering Division, Safety Analysis
Antonia Wuschner is a sophomore at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she studies nuclear engineering.
Wuschner developed an interest in math and science at an early age from her father, who is also an engineer. For one of her engineering classes, Wuschner helped create a game for autistic tweens, which is now used in children’s hospitals.
Here at Argonne, Wuschner is working as part of a team on a program to test how a sodium-cooled fast reactor would react to different safety scenarios. Although there aren’t currently any full-scale examples of this type of reactor in the United States, Argonne’s Safety Analysis group is developing code that will be ready when we want to start building.
“I’ve been writing a testing server that allows you to check any changes to the code and run a bunch of tests on it to make sure it’s still outputting reliable results,” Wuschner said. “It’s important to have your code be reliable, so that you can use it to prove that the reactor’s reliable.”
After her time here, Wuschner intends to continue researching in the medical physics field, and she plans to apply for another national lab internship next summer.
Leadership Computing Facility, Advanced Integration
Souham Biswas is a graduate student from the Illinois Institute of Technology, earning his master’s degree in computer science.
Souham has helped create robots that can clean rooms, pick fruit and even maintain a hospital bed, most recently developing an unmanned drone that can identify suspicious targets on the ground in real time.
Over the past few years, Souham has focused on machine learning, writing programs that can recognize patterns and learn to respond accordingly, with applications in naval defense, online business strategies and even poetry.
This summer Souham was able to use his skills for another of his passions: particle physics.
Working in the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, Souham implemented Deep Learning algorithms to identify the products of high energy particle collisions. When particles collide at high speeds, they produce subatomic particles such as electrons, which can be recorded and analyzed by researchers.
“Until now, this was made by humans,” Souham said. “But now, judging by the preliminary results, we have confidence that we will be able to replace the human-engineered techniques with machine learning methods.”