Research Rookies 2015-2016

January Update

With winter break past us, it is finally time to start preparing for URAD this spring. I’ve been having steady progress on my project over the course of this past semester. The compressor model that I was previously having trouble with is now working and spitting out the correct values. Of course, this is just one fourth of the entire model, so there is still a lot of work to get done. My current focus will be on the expander model which should be fairly simple to modify due to its similarities with the compressor. I am definitely learning a lot about how to incorporate math and physics with engineering in this hands-on project. I sometimes surprise myself at the amount of work I put into this project when I see the entire PHES model. It took small steps one at a time, but I am finally making progress towards a completed model which will contain realistic values.

Apart from my progress, it’s hard to believe that this will be my last semester participating in the Research Rookies Program. I have received a lot of support from the program starting from my first year. I still remember coming to college for the first time and worrying about balancing my activities, covering learning gaps, and just trying to survive my first year. Having the chance to give back to the program as a peer mentor this year has been very fulfilling for me. I know what it was like during the first year, so that knowledge motivates me to provide the best possible experience for the current first-year students. One piece of advice I would give for all the first-year students is to continue exploring different options. It’s really easy to just get your project done and over with if when URAD passes, but it would be really awesome if you could continue your involvement in research either as a second-year research rookie or as a student funded by another research program. There are so many different types of research projects out there that you never know what you’re truly interested in if you don’t take the time to try out some of them. For me, I thought I was just interested in microelectronics and robotics which made up most of my research during my first year. However, after trying my hand at my current project, I realized that energy is also very interesting to me. You just never know what will happen until you try it. Being a first-year student means you have lots of time to explore different opportunities, so don’t be afraid to jump out of you comfort zone. There are many programs out there willing and able to support you through you academic and future career success. All you have to do is look for them.

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Research Rookies 2015-2016

Research Rookies Reception

The Research Rookies Reception this year was amazing! I think we all did really well preparing our elevator speeches. Having gone through it before, I wasn’t as nervous this time around. I believe I was able to get through the process pretty smoothly and am at the point where I can start to help others along the process as well.

I think my favorite part of the reception was listening to previous research rookies speak about what they’ve been doing and how research rookies has helped them get to where they are now. It is really encouraging to hear about all the wonderful things we could potentially be doing in the future with the support and experience from research rookies.

As the this semester comes to a close I would like to stay heavily involved in all the organizations I’m a part of. Some of these include NIU Robotics Club, the McKearn Fellowship Program, and my research. I hope to be able to make even more progress on my research in the spring semester.

Until next year!

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Research Rookies 2015-2016

November Progress

It seems that I have been hitting many obstacles lately when it comes to figuring out how to get my energy storage model working. Thankfully I had already accounted for this in my proposal and am taking my time in learning what problems are occurring and what equations will be needed to solve these problems. It is for this reason that I see no need to revise my proposal. I enjoy learning alongside Dr. Zinger about a topic that both of us are unfamiliar with. I believe that both of us will come out of this project with a better understanding of how the PHES system will work realistically.

My experience this year has been kind of different in that I find that I already know about what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I find that I am seeking answers to questions a lot less and giving out answers a lot more. It is just unbelievable that I have made it this far through research and am still finding many new and interesting things. It is also very different being a small group leader this year because of the shift in focus from just thinking about what I have to do to what does each of my group members need. I was very fortunate to get an amazing group of first-year rookies each with their own unique personalities and interests. I definitely enjoy showing them the ropes as they begin their research journey. The only challenging part is managing my time between being a peer mentor and being a student/participant in multiple other activities. However, I believe that successful completion of my duties as a peer mentor will undoubtedly enhance my leadership skills. I look forward to seeing how far my group has come at the reception on November 30th.

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Research Rookies 2015-2016

Mid-Semester Progress

With half a semester just about done, I am continuing to make progress on my research. There has been a very slow start to the whole process due mostly in part by having to balance research with classes and other activities. Originally, I had been conducting my research on a Pumped-Heat Electricity Storage (PHES) over the summer. Having to transition from 40+ hours a week of dedicated time towards the project to about 5-10 hours a week has really taken its toll. To top it off, we are currently experiencing difficulty in lack of knowledge on further thermodynamic concepts designed to make our system more realistic. Unfortunately, both Dr. Zinger and I have been trying to find a way to solve this problem, but so far we have made very little progress from the summer. To address this issue, we hope to bring back Dr. Kevin B. Martin to help shed some light on a few problems we’ve been having.

Apart from research, being a peer mentor has been both exciting and busy at the same time. It has been wonderful having all of my mentees join the NIU Robotic Club and getting more involved with activities in their majors. I am learning a lot about leadership, organization, and management through guiding my mentees on their paths to success. I hope to see them grow a lot during their time with Research Rookies. I believe that they will go out to do great things.

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Research Rookies 2015-2016

Research Rookie Once Again

With one year gone, another one arrives in its place. As a second-year student in the Research Rookies Program, the research process came a lot smoother than it did last year. Coming in from the summer where I had done research with Dr. Donald Zinger and Dr. Kevin Martin on energy storage systems (specifically the pumped-heat electricity storage system (PHES)), I decided to continue this project for this upcoming year. With this continuation, I have had to make a few changes to my proposal focusing in on the analysis aspect of my project while enhancing the original model I designed over the summer. Of course, with a new year comes new challenges. Unfortunately although it is nice to see Dr. Zinger be given the opportunity to become the Interim Chair for the Department of Electrical Engineering, it also means that he has even less time to devote to helping me with this project. Therefore, there will be a lot of individual learning and work on my part. I hope to address the challenge by depending more upon Dr. Martin to provide the thermodynamics knowledge.

At this point in time, my research is at a good place to continue where I left off. Right now I plan on revising my model to include more realistic values and physics to more accurately simulate what would happen in real life. From my meetings with Dr. Zinger, I know that I need to find a way to incorporate system pressure with temperature change, mass flow rate, and work energy. These characteristics will serve to help me find the overall round-trip efficiency of the system allowing me to compare it with other types of energy storage systems.

I think the research process will be pretty straightforward this year giving me time to mentor the first-year research rookies under my wing. I find it enjoyable to guide them towards success using the experiences I have accumulated over the course of last year. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of progress done on my research on energy storage systems.

Here’s to another year!

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McKearn Fellowship Program Summer 2015

The Final Stretch to the End

This summer has been a blast. There just aren’t enough words to describe how grateful I am to the McKearns for providing us with this awesome experience. Through the funding they provided and programming they helped plan, I’ve been able to do research on a topic that can have a major impact on the world and develop my leadership and professional skills at the same time. This experience could be described as truly world class because it not only advanced me through my field to get hands-on experience, but it also made me more aware of social, civic, and global issues and events. I have learned that having a schedule is really important when keeping up with the workload because it keeps you accountable and gets the job done in a timely manner. It is also a good thing to leave room for errors in the schedule because I did indeed need more time to carefully test and debug my model during its simulation process. After going through research a second time, I feel much more confident in writing research papers and creating poster presentations. Looking ahead at the Summer Research Symposium, I feel both a familiarity of having done something like this before, but at the same time I feel the nervousness of having to present a totally different research topic from before.

With all that is ahead of me, I can’t wait to obtain the engineering knowledge I need to take on real-world problems that I would not have been able to solve with my current knowledge level. Now that we have a better picture of what this summer has been like, careful planning and scheduling can definitely take the McKearn Fellowship Program even further beyond what we could have possibly imagined.

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McKearn Fellowship Program Summer 2015

Trip to St. Louis

Our trip to St. Louis has been one of the best experiences I have had as part of the McKearn Fellows Program. It was exciting to know that we would all be taking a trip together and creating memories that would be with us as we continue on our journey through our undergraduate education and beyond. However, as excited as I was, I was also fairly nervous about various things including what to wear for business casual and business formal attire and how to act in front of Mr. and Mrs. McKearn. However, these concerns quickly vanished as soon as we met the McKearns and were greeted with a warm, friendly atmosphere. The experience at the McKearn residence was a lot more laid back than we had all originally thought. One thing that helped was the practice we had delivering our elevator pitches about the research we were conducting this summer. It really helped break the ice between everyone and gave the Mckearns a general idea of who we were and what interests we had. I was very impressed at how aware they were in topics that seemed to have nothing to do with their careers. In the end, the McKearns turned out to be really kind and friendly people who were very interested in our experiences with the program, and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience at their residence.

I think as we continue with our experiences through the program, we will grow socially, globally, and civically through the various activities and encounters with people not necessarily in our major of interest. It is through diverse experiences that we begin to get a broader awareness of the kind of world we live in and be able to see how our future careers fit into the bigger picture.

It has been a wonderful privilege for us to be able to participate in this program and learn from workshops on library research, ethics in research, and how to make good presentations. Activities such as volunteering at camp power and various excursions helped us to develop our leadership skills and social and civic awareness. I have also been very grateful for the opportunity to be able to conduct research on energy storage systems with my mentors, Dr. Donald Zinger and Dr. Kevin Martin. They have been an essential part of moving this project forward helping me to overcome learning gaps and giving me a clear direction to follow throughout our time together.

As we move forward towards the end of this summer, I hope that we will continue to develop wonderful relations with everyone in this program and focus on our continual social, global, and civic development. It will definitely be a unique experience to be able to complete the projects we are working on and present them at the Summer Research Symposium in hopes that they will be an inspiration for future projects to come.

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