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How They Spent Their Summer Vacation: Eight Seniors Intern as UC Irvine Research Scientists

16 November 2011 admin 3,503 views One Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Magnetic micro-tweezers. Generating usable energy from tides. Examining one’s own cancer cells. These are just some of the heady concepts explored this past summer by eight St. Margaret’s seniors who demonstrated a passion for science, applied for, then won coveted spots within the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine Engineering Department.

For the seventh consecutive year, UCI has generously offered a unique, rigorous research internship opportunity exclusive to St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for a selected group of its junior students. Click here to read UCI’s article regarding the 2011 St. Margaret’s Episcopal School Summer Internship Reception.

St. Margaret’s UC Irvine summer internship participants and their projects included:

  • Gaby Carpenter and George Clemmons – Thermal Barrier Coatings
  • Elizabeth Chen and Madison Jahn – Microplatforms for Capturing Tumor Cells
  • Heather Hughes – A Look into Marine Energy
  • Barrett Travis – The Effect of Scales on Turbulent Mixing of a Passive Scalar”
  • Ted Ko – Metamaterials
  • Aurahm Bayat – Onco Imaging Center: Magnetic Tweezers

The St. Margaret’s interns spent a major part of their summer working daily in an engineering laboratory under the supervision of UCI faculty advisors and alongside graduate students as lab mentors. Their reward: invaluable experience in an academic research environment. For the eight Class of 2012 students who had completed a specific level of science and math courses, it began last spring as juniors when they filled out applications, supplied transcripts and wrote essays on why they wanted to be part of the internship program, in addition to having obtained a recommendation from a member of St. Margaret’s math or science department faculty.

The students worked a minimum of 20 hours per week in the university’s laboratories with their UCI faculty advisors and lab mentors. On November 2, a reception was held at UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering where the eight students, now seniors, presented summaries of their work before UCI faculty advisors and lab mentors, St. Margaret’s parent Ms. Stacey Nicholas, and family members. Ms. Nicholas, herself an electrical engineer, was one of the initial proponents of the internship program at UCI. Dr. Greg Washington, the new dean of the Samueli School of Engineering, opened the reception with a brief welcome, remarking on the great value of the internship program to both UCI and St. Margaret’s.

Also at the reception was Mr. Joe Ingalls, St. Margaret’s instructor of chemistry, physics and engineering who coordinates the school’s UCI internship program. He concurred, “I consider the internship and excellent way to gain academic exposure at the university research level.”

Below are some of the student interns’ reflections on their projects and experiences:

Elizabeth Chen:
My research team worked on developing a microfluidic platform for capturing circulating tumor cells (CTCs). In other words, we were engineering devices that could catch CTCs in the blood. The device could inform patients of the severity of their cancer without being invasive. I worked under the leadership of Professor William C. Tang and a graduate researcher, Sweta Gupta, along with two other undergraduates. I am extremely honored as a high schooler to be exposed to the type of brainstorming that university-level researchers go through, and to gain such advanced lab experience. My interest in biology only increased after the internship.

Heather Hughes:
My experience at UCI this summer was truly exceptional. The laboratory I worked in consisted of a number of different types of engineering students, all working toward the advancement of energy production and power distribution. It was very exciting to be immersed in a university environment in which passionate individuals are working collectively to develop solutions to real-world problems. During my internship, I focused on marine energy and began my research by drafting a Southern California Marine Energy Report, looking into the various ways marine energy can be utilized and which types look most promising for Southern California. With the help of my graduate student mentor, I then wrote a code in MATLAB analyzing the feasibility at eight locations around the country of the Seagen tidal turbine. In addition to my research, I enjoyed sitting in on lab meetings, talking with current engineering students, and learning about the various other current projects in the laboratory. I now have a better idea of what it means to be an engineer and am hoping to continue my engineering studies in college next fall.

Ted Ko:
Electrical engineering was a completely new field to me. However, my internship at UCI allowed me to get a glimpse of the magnificent and high-tech research going on in this field. I worked under Professor Filippo Capolino, and we designed a proof of metamaterials. Metamaterials are specially engineered objects that artificially manipulate light for uses such as cloaking. In this project, I learned about the properties of metamaterials, how to analyze them and how to construct them. My goal this summer was to conduct an analytical and experimental analysis of a metamaterial using a specific network postulated by my professor. With the help of Ph.D. students, I was able to complete the analytical study, and we are currently in the process of completing the experimental study. This internship experience showed me the technical skill, persistence, and determination necessary to successfully conduct a research experiment at the professional level. Over the past summer, I have learned a great deal about electrical engineering research, and I will take this experience with me to college!

Barrett Travis:
Over the summer I worked in a mechanical and aerospace engineering lab at UC Irvine. The project involved determining how heat and particulate matter diffuse in turbulent air. My role in the project was to construct cold-wires, which are essentially tiny thermometers used to measure air temperature and velocity in the wind tunnel on UC Irvine’s campus. I found it interesting how a single research project could involve students from so many different engineering specialties. I think one day in the lab we had an electrical engineer come look at the wind tunnel set-up and software, a professor with a chemistry background advise us on how best to nickel-plate our cold-wire sensors, and mechanical engineering students working on a rig that produces “random” turbulent air in the tunnel. It was great to be a part of this project and experience so many unique aspects of engineering.

Video montage of interns’ presentations below or click here.


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One Comment »

  • Kathy Victor said:

    I would LOVE to get my SMES sophomore involved in the internship program. What is the process for doing so??