Benjamin Torda.

Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, Colorado School of Mines - Golden, CO

Project Description

Peter Buck Internship Fund Recipient

An internship in Dr. Sumit Agarwal’s research group would help me significantly during my studies at Bowdoin and beyond. By working in a research group focused on solar energy, with a focus on application, I would have a chance to explore an area of research I wish to pursue. I would also gain valuable laboratory experience, an advantage when applying for graduate school. Finally, I would gain exposure to chemical engineering research – which would help me decide whether to go on to graduate education in chemistry or chemical engineering.

Renewable energy research is a broad term for technologies reaching across many disciplines. I am especially drawn to photovoltaics and to researching new materials and processes to increase energy output and decrease costs. The practical applications of this research interest me, as well as the pressing need for clean energy sources in light of climate change and to ensure a stable energy supply.

Dr. Agarwal’s research focuses on thin-films and nanostructures, both of which have wide-ranging applications, including in solar cells and photovoltaics. This research has direct application to manufacturing the newest iterations of solar cells. I have some experience, gained working in Professor Jeffrey Nagle’s lab this past summer, with the solution chemistry used in thin-film synthesis. It was last summer when I became interested in the complex interplay between solvents and solutes that characterizes such chemistry. Working in Dr. Agarwal’s lab would allow me to explore this work with a much greater focus.

In addition to thin-films, Dr. Agarwal researches solar cell manufacturing. Working at an internship with a focus on chemical engineering research would help me in deciding whether to pursue chemistry or chemical engineering in graduate school. I enjoy the theory behind pure chemistry, but I also would like to tackle specific challenges related to renewable energy production. Studying at Bowdoin has allowed me to explore chemistry, but I would also like the opportunity to explore chemical engineering.

When Dr. Agarwal and I spoke in February, he told me his lab uses a wide variety of instruments to synthesize and characterize thin-films and nanostructures. A significant portion of an internship, roughly three weeks, would be devoted to learning the theory behind these instruments and then how to properly use them. When going forward, knowledge of practical laboratory techniques – including the use of various instruments – can help me stand out as I apply to graduate programs and research groups. These are skills that go beyond any one specific area of research.

Lastly, I plan on completing an Honors Project next year. I would like to write my thesis on a topic related to solar energy production. Professor Nagle, who would be my advisor, is going on sabbatical next spring. I would therefore not be able to continue the research I started last summer. I would hope to use the knowledge and skills I learn this summer working with Dr. Agarwal to guide my honors research. I would go into the summer with an eye toward identifying an appropriate research topic for this upcoming year.

An internship in Dr. Agarwal’s lab would provide a wonderful opportunity to assist with projects that are on the forefront of current renewable energy research. Coming from a small liberal arts college, this internship would allow me to experience postgraduate research at a large research institution. This would provide an invaluable experience as I finish my studies at Bowdoin and figure out the next steps of my academic career.

Project Details

  • Date September 22, 2017
  • Tags 2017, Buck, Environment, Junior, Science, USA

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