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Andlinger Center supports 20 undergraduate summer interns on bioprocessing, catalysis, and beyond

May 26, 2021

By the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment 

The Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment has awarded 20 undergraduates research funds to support research on energy- and environment-related projects.

The research is supported by the Peter B. Lewis Fund for Student Innovation in Energy and the Environment, the Dede T. Bartlett P03 Fund for Student Research in Energy and the Environment, and the Sustainability Fund. 

The students’ projects, which are conducted remotely this year, are described below:

Internships with Princeton faculty

Farah Azmi (CBE ’24)
Advised by Michele Sarazen
Combined Plasma and Thermal Catalytic Conversion of Natural Gas to Liquids

This project investigates an alternative approach to traditional large-scale chemical plants and refineries that rely heavily on high-temperature catalysis: plasma catalysis, which can be powered by renewable electricity and engineered to enable distributed production of chemicals and fuels, while lowering CO2 emissions and increasing energy efficiency compared to conventional thermal catalysis. Specifically, the overarching project goal is to convert methane (from stranded or flared natural gas) to higher-order liquid hydrocarbons and oxygenated fuels and chemicals with a combined plasma-assisted and thermal catalysis approach using bifunctional zeolite/metal catalysts.

Danice Ball (CEE ’22)
Advised by Elke Weber
Deep and Rapid Decarbonization of the Energy Systems of the United States, India, and areas of Europe

The research will focus on one of several projects that examine the deep and rapid decarbonization of the energy systems of the United States, India, and areas of Europe. Topic areas include willingness to adopt and install energy structures (e.g. smart grids and electricity transmission lines), mechanisms for corporate climate action, climate adaptation and mitigation behaviors. The projects will focus both on understanding existing social norms and perceptions of these environmental areas and the institutions, agents, and other forces that impact them.

Riti Bhandarkar (CEE ’23)
Advised by Eric Larson, Chris Greig, and Jesse Jenkins
Impact on Power System Planning of Electrification of Transportation and Building Energy Use

Dramatically increased electrification, especially electric vehicles and heat pumps for space conditioning in homes and businesses will play a significant role in net-zero transitions. This project focuses on understanding how electrification will impact the design and operation of the future grid in the course of the transition. The analysis will employ GenX (a Julia-based electricity capacity expansion modeling tool) to simulate and gain insight into different electrification scenarios.

Evan Dogariu (COS ’24)
Advised by Minjie Chen
Machine Learning based Magnetic Core Loss Modeling Platform

This project will develop a machine-learning-based magnetic core-loss modeling platform to accelerate the design process of power electronics. The intern will focus on the development of software tools and experimental setups to measure the magnetic core loss, process the data, and generate SPICE netlist for magnetic-in-circuit simulations.

Joshua Drossman (ORF ’22)
Advised by Eric Larson, Chris Greig, and Jesse Jenkins
Optimization of CO2 Transport and Storage Infrastructure Development

This project aims to develop cost-optimized spatial and temporal sequences of CO2 transport infrastructure and geologic storage asset development under different net-zero transition scenarios. This effort would recognize (a) a risk-managed development sequence; (b) deep uncertainties around CO2 storage (injection rate) capacity, unit costs, public acceptance, and regulations for different storage locations; and (c) deep uncertainty around the temporal and spatial role, scale, timing and type of CCS deployment in net-zero pathways.

Cady Feng (ELE ’24)
Advised by Eric Larson, Chris Greig, and Jesse Jenkins
Multi-objective Optimization of Electricity Infrastructure Energy Siting

This project will build on land-use suitability screening to identify areas for potential wind and solar siting and thermal power plant siting across the continental United States for the Net-Zero America project. The work will identify other attributes of land areas that are relevant to siting decisions (transmission spur line distance and cost, visual impacts for populations, land cover/use, population density, land value, distance to existing roads, contiguous parcels, etc.) to refine criteria for evaluating candidate project areas. These attributes will be used to perform a multi-attribute optimization or multi-attribute tradeoff analysis to identify a range of siting options that might minimize opposition or maximize other priorities, e.g., distribution of employment.

Yuno Iwasaki (PHY ’23)
Advised by Egemen Kolemen
Machine Learning Models for Plasma Control in Fusion Reactors

The research aims to improve predictive and interpretive models of plasma properties in fusion reactors using machine learning. The primary goal in current fusion research is to develop reactors that are able to maintain high-density, high-temperature plasmas for significant periods of time. To achieve this, it is necessary to develop real-time systems that enable continuous optimization of plasma parameters. Existing models for plasma evolution are typically slow and computationally costly. Data-driven plasma profile prediction models using neural networks are a promising approach for quickly predicting plasma behavior and have been developed and tested on current fusion devices. However, these models rely on accurate information on the current and past state of the plasma, which is often limited due to available diagnostics, noise, and lack of complete physical models for interpreting the data. The project will investigate ML models that can efficiently interpret plasma states in a Bayesian framework with previous and current sensor data as input, with the goal of obtaining the most accurate inference of the internal state of the plasma from minimal sensor data.

Kenalpha Kipyegon (MAE ’22)
Advised by Michael Mueller
Offshore Wind Turbines

The incoming wind profile can substantially affect the output and wake of wind turbines, which can influence the output and wake of downstream wind turbines. In this project, the sensitivity of offshore wind turbine wake development to incoming offshore wind profile scenarios will be assessed using computational fluid dynamics simulations. This knowledge will be used to develop strategies for the placement of downstream wind turbines within an offshore wind turbine farm.

Ethan Reese (ORF ’23)
Advised by Ronnie Sircar
Stochastic Models, Indices & Optimization Algorithms for Pricing and Hedging Reliability Risks in Modern Power Grids

The research will adapt the science of risk measures to quantify the reliability in power production by individual electricity producers, from natural gas units to wind farms, and their aggregate impact on the stability of electricity grid operations.

Waree Sethapun (PHY ’24)
Advised by Forrest Meggers
Campus Geothermal System Evaluation

Princeton is currently installing over 700 ground heat exchangers on the east side of campus for the geothermal heating and cooling system as part of the campus, and another 500 or so are planned for the new lake campus. The research will model the heating and cooling demand and explore how the performance of the geothermal systems can be optimized both for efficiency (2nd law of thermodynamics) and also for managing variable renewable electricity on the grid.

Louis Viglietta (CBE ’24)
Advised by José Avalos
Computational Design of Microbial Metabolism to Improve Biofuel Production 

This project involves using microbial genome-scale metabolic models (GEMs) to optimize advanced biofuel production and growth under one-carbon substrates. By having an in silico prediction of microbial metabolic performance, the researchers are able to implement the best forecasted genetic modifications in laboratory settings, saving time and expenses normally incurred when these iteration cycles are performed experimentally. During the project, the intern will learn and use the Constraint-Based Reconstruction and Analysis (COBRA) software suite and previously published GEMs for the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to model its metabolism under both aerobic and anaerobic growth conditions. The results from this project will inform future experimental efforts to build microbial cell factories for improved biofuel production.  

Emily Wu (CEE ’24)
Advised by Claire White
The Materials Science of Sustainable Cements and Materials for CO2 Capture

Concrete, the second most-used substance on earth after water, is responsible for 5-8% of all human-made CO2 emissions. The research is focused on developing new sustainable concrete by understanding and optimizing the sub-micron processes (i.e., reactions) occurring in conventional and alternative cements. Moreover, the ability to capture CO2 using novel materials is a key research area being explored by the group. The project will complement one of the group’s ongoing projects, and will include working in a wet lab with graduate students to synthesize materials together. The intern will learn to use various experimental characterization equipment, such as X-ray diffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.

Callie Zheng (CBE ’24)
Advised by Sujit Datta
Using Polymers to Clean up Contaminated Groundwater Sources

Polymer additives hold promise in groundwater remediation to produce unstable flow fluctuations, which are believed to aid the mobilization of trapped non-aqueous contaminants. Simple models fail to predict recovery outcomes, in part because it is unclear how pore-scale fluctuations redistribute the flow and hence alter local mobilization conditions. This project will develop dynamic network simulations to link pore-scale conditions to aquifer-scale mobilization outcomes.

Internships with governmental agencies and non-profit organizations

Jane Castleman (CEE ’24)
Climate Central
Net-Zero America Communications

A major Princeton University research effort, Net-Zero America (NZA), is developing alternative energy/industrial technology pathways for the U.S. economy to reach net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. The analysis is highly granular, geographically and temporally, and is thus likely to be of interest to Climate Central audiences across the U.S. Princeton researchers released detailed NZA results in December 2020, and this internship will involve working with a larger Climate Central team to review NZA results and to synthesize and translate technical information for non-expert audiences. This will include conceiving and preparing communications materials, e.g., state fact sheets on the implications and impacts of net-zero transitions, targeted for Climate Central partners around the U.S.

Annabelle Duval (’23  AB-undecided)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
EDF – Climate Corps

EDF Climate Corps is a network of over 2,300 professionals united to advance climate solutions. Climate Corps seeks to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon energy system by inspiring and empowering leaders. The ability to tell the exciting stories that emerge through the fellowship program, both through visuals and the written word, is incredibly important for communicating the program’s impact on people and the planet. This intern will play a central role in advancing the communications of the Climate Corps program by executing key communications tasks and assignments related to digital assets.

Marie Li (ORF ’23)
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
FERC Energy Industry Analyst Intern

The Office of Energy Market Regulation (OEMR) at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), regulates wholesale electricity and natural gas markets, as well as the interstate transmission of electricity and interstate transportation of oil and natural gas. In OEMR’s market power analysis, FERC requires “Simultaneous Import Limit” studies to determine the import capability of generation capacity physically located outside the relevant destination market. Applying FERC precedent and market theory, in conjunction with transmission and market transaction data, the intern will create a tool to measure the predictive value of Simultaneous Import Limit studies in forecasting imports and setting the market size under different circumstances. The intern will use R, Python, or other relevant software to analyze power flows in wholesale electricity markets and to develop the new tool. In addition, the internship will provide opportunities to gain exposure to other emerging and challenging issues related to the transition of the nation’s energy supply.

Nadia Ralston (CEE ’22)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
EDF – Electric Truck and Bus Intern

With electric vehicles, a zero-emission future that benefits the environment, people and economy is possible. Through collaboration with manufacturers, fleet owners, investors and policymakers, EDF is working to make sure all new trucks and buses sold are zero-emissions by 2040. The Electric Truck and Bus intern will support a cross-programmatic team composed of EDF+Business and Energy Program staff by performing research to identify effective, efficient and equitable opportunities across the U.S. where innovative public incentive programs will have greatest impact to speed the transition to zero-emission trucks and buses. The output of this research will directly inform EDF’s various team leads advancing zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in regions across the United States.

Arielle Rivera (ELE ’23)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
EDF – Puerto Rico Energy Intern

As part of an ambitious energy transition agenda, EDF aims to redefine energy access in Puerto Rico. By identifying possible effective policies and partnering with motivated communities, local groups and impact-focused investors, EDF will support the deployment of innovative, economically sustainable energy projects that can deliver clean, affordable and reliable electricity to low-income communities across the island. As a member of the Puerto Rico team, composed of EDF+Business, Energy, and Political Affairs staff, the intern will conduct a technical, economic and environmental assessment of Virtual Power Plant (VPP) feasibility on various scales throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The output of this research will assist the Puerto Rico team in determining in which regions VPPs will yield maximum economic and environmental benefit. In addition, these conclusions may inform the future direction of the Puerto Rico Energy program as a whole and its potential Caribbean-wide expansion.

Elizabeth Tong (CEE ’23)
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)
Valuing Energy Use in Rental Listings

Would the presence of energy efficiency information in rental listings affect renters’ decision making? How much would renters value energy efficiency relative to other attributes? Could this value change based on how the data is presented? The ACEEE Behavior and Human Dimensions Program conducts research on energy efficiency from a behavioral perspective and examines these questions through a combination of research and experimentation. The intern will conduct background literature reviews and preliminary studies in order to inform the design and implementation of a discrete choice experiment, and will assist with other projects conducted in the program.

Edward Zhang (CEE ’24)
Moonshot Missions
Water Access

The research will focus on how to address the challenges that utilities face managing wastewater and drinking water, particularly in economically-distressed communities. Moonshot Missions is currently working on topics related to environmental equity, such as improving utility operations and associated financial burdens, providing access to clean water in U.S. Tribal communities, and leveling the playing field in the water sector so every American has access to clean drinking water and local waterways.