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Andlinger Center News

May 30, 2024
Three people in graduation regalia smile for a photo.
Senior thesis prize winner Reese Knopp (center) stands with Egemen Kolemen (left), the director of the Program in Sustainable Energy, and Elke Weber (right), the associate director for education at the Andlinger Center (photo by Lori M. Nichols).

Andlinger Center celebrates 18 seniors, awards thesis prize for work on microplastics

The Andlinger Center celebrated 18 graduating seniors at its Class Day ceremony on May 27. The group of students included 17 seniors who received a certificate from the Program in Sustainable Energy and one student who received a certificate from the Program in Technology and Society: Energy Track.

Iain McCulloch, director of the Andlinger Center, congratulated each of the students and thanked their families for supporting them during their time at Princeton.

“You’ve all worked hard to explore a range of energy and environmental topics, from energy science to environmental economics to energy-related decision-making,” said McCulloch, who is also the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment. “We hope the knowledge and experience you’ve gained at Princeton will benefit you as you progress in your careers.”

McCulloch applauded the breadth of topics that the students explored at Princeton, exemplified by the diversity of their senior theses.

For example, civil and environmental engineering student Kelvin Green studied a new process for critical minerals recovery, while others like Shrey Addagatla in operations research and financial engineering studied the economics of climate adaptation and disaster risk financing in developing nations.

At the ceremony, the Senior Thesis Prize in Energy and the Environment was awarded to mechanical engineering student Reese Knopp. The prize is given each year to the certificate student whose thesis exemplifies both outstanding research and a commitment to understanding and solving the world’s energy and environmental challenges.

Knopp’s thesis explored how bubbles can pick up microplastics as they rise to the surface of water, and then eject those microplastics into the air when they burst. Once ejected, surface winds can transport those microplastics across the world — one of the transport processes that explain how microplastics have been found in remote locations such as Antarctica. Knopp was interested in understanding the efficiency and maximum capacity of each bubble for transporting microplastics.

A collection of photographs of bubbles surrounded by microplastics.
Senior thesis prize winner Reese Knopp’s thesis explored the efficiency and maximum capacity of bubbles for transporting microplastics while rising through a column of water.

Knopp’s advisor Luc Deike, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the High Meadows Environmental Institute, noted that her thesis was “exceptionally well written,” and that she had “performed outstanding work to collect a unique and rigorous dataset.”

The sole recipient of the certificate in Technology and Society: Energy Track, Knopp credited the courses she took for the certificate as a key motivator for pursuing a thesis that not only dove into the world of fluid dynamics but also articulated the implications of her work to a broad audience.

“Many of the classes I took looked at the intersection between society and the environment,” Knopp said. “They helped me understand how wide-reaching environmental problems are. It’s not enough to create a technological solution; you have to think about how that technology will impact people, as well as how people might impact the development of that technology.”

Knopp said she plans to continue exploring topics at the intersection of ocean science and energy, whether that be through work in industry or additional academic pursuits.

Other graduating seniors have similar plans to continue working on energy and environmental challenges, each in a way that reflects their unique interests and perspectives. Some students will proceed directly into graduate programs in energy science and environmental engineering, while others are pursuing careers as engineers, scientists, analysts, and consultants in fields such as clean energy, infrastructure development, transportation, and investment banking.

In closing the ceremony, Elke Weber, the associate director for education at the Andlinger Center and the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment, offered kind words to the students and their families as they embarked on the next chapter of their lives.

“Speaking on behalf of my colleagues and everyone at the Andlinger Center, we offer you the warmest of congratulations and wish you all the best in your future endeavors,” said Weber. “We look forward to seeing all you accomplish and encourage you to keep in touch.”

A group of graduating seniors poses for a photo.
The Andlinger Center celebrated graduating seniors who earned certificates from the Program in Sustainable Energy and the Program in Technology and Society: Energy Track at its Class Day ceremony (photo by Lori M. Nichols).