Now… Time to write about the start of my SURF and tour guide training!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working in Professor Julia Greer’s lab. While she’s not actually in the chemical engineering department, she is in a materials lab in the Engineering and Applied Science department… and I’m in the materials track of chemE! Her research is centered on the strength of nanostructures. My project specifically is on the mechanical properties and deformation mechanisms of nanopillars. You can read more about it here:https://www.jrgreer.caltech.edu/research.php#nanoscale_deformation.
This first week has primarily been devoted to the electroplating of nanopillar samples and training on various machines. I’ve been making nanopillars that have diameters ranging from 50 nm to 500 nm, via electroplating. This is a process where I have a larger dummy chip and the chip that I want to create pillars on, an anode and cathode placed in a solution of iron, and then a current, which plates the iron onto the chip. The chip itself is 1 cm by 1 cm, and it’s made up of a thin gold layer, on top of a titanium layer that coats a silicon wafer. The gold layer is covered by a template which gives us the pillar structure, and it’s washed off after electroplating using acetone and isopropyl alcohol. Anyways… This tiny chip holds around 60,000 pillars at the center of it!
Here’s a picture of the setup:
The light-green bath on the far left of the picture is for iron, made up of ammonium ferrous sulfate. This is where the anode and cathode are. As for the other solutions, the blue is copper, the small beaker next to that holds the dark green nickel bath. The two bottles in the back hold the dead yellow-colored iron baths that don’t work anymore, because the Fe(II) oxidized to Fe(III).
Once the pillars are created, we take them down to the clean room to use the SEMentor, which is a scanning electron microscope combined with a nanoindentor. This allows us to see the pillars and also conduct a number of tests on them. There’s also another machine, the G200, that we use to gather compression test data.
We have to wear lots of ridiculous clean room gear when we use the SEMentor, like the people in this random photo I found:
And look! Here’s a picture of the super cute nanopillars that Jarvis, another SURF student, made! This is of 100 nm nickel nanopillars, magnified at 40x. Normally, 100 nm is too small to see easily, but these pillars were overplated. [I’d show you a picture of mine, but my project currently isn’t working… My mentor and I are working to figure out why.]
Oh, and here’s a picture of some of my iron nanopillars, taken by the SEMentor:
And here’s a close-up of one:
Anyways, this has only been the past two weeks of my SURF project. There’s a lot more stuff to come.
Now that my stint as an admissions blogger is reaching an end, I found myself a new job to do! I’d wanted to be a tour guide ever since I became a Techer. After all, my choice to come here was thanks to a tour here, where I fell in love with the beautiful campus, unique culture, and academic challenge of Caltech. Soo… I wanted to share my love with others! :D
There were a ton of tour guide applicants. If I remember right, there were at least 50 applicants, but only room for about 20. To apply, we filled out a form and went through two interviews. From there, those of us who were chosen had to undergo training, which involved shadowing two tours and attending an information session. Anyways, I went to those… and now I’m a fully trained tour guide! I’ll probably start giving tours in July, after I come back from my two week vacation with family. I still have a lot to prepare before that happens though: I need to plan out a route and also figure out what I want to say to people… Also, I need to figure out how to walk backwards while talking to a large group without falling over. Now that is going to be the key challenge… xP.
And with that… Goodbye! This is my last post. D: Thanks for reading my blogs this past year; I had a lot of fun writing for you guys!
You guys should come to Caltech and catch one of my tours! ;D
Almost a year ago now, I was just about to start my first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at JPL. NASA had sent out an email to all of their summer interns containing a social media template to announce that we had been selected as NASA interns. Excited to show my NASA pride, I posted it on my Instagram story, unaware of what would come out of this small action.
Hey hey! We’re starting a series where I walk you through my best finds for food and drinks in the Pasadena region, and in the LA metropolitan area. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, if you will (although, for copyright reasons we can’t call it that). As you explore your college options, I firmly believe that food and location are more important than your high school guidance counselor may lead you to believe. And I’m here to share my best finds from my time at Caltech with you.
Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under the mentorship of senior research technologist Dr. Xiaoqing Pi. Dr. Pi’s guidance and mentorship has been instrumental to the development and success of my internship at JPL, where I use machine-learning to enhance the accuracy and integrity of navigation and communication signals. In addition to helping me develop an understanding of atmospheric and ionospheric remote sensing and machine-learning, Dr. Pi has often offered his insights on how to improve my researching skills. Dr. Pi was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions regarding his research and advice for future student interns. I believe many students can benefit from some of the lessons that he has taught me:
The transition period to remote learning was a very uncertain time, especially for research and the Caltech Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program. Many hands-on projects had to pivot at the last minute to facilitate off-campus contributions. However, many Techers were able to take advantage of the research opportunities offered at Caltech and JPL to make the best out of remote learning and research. To paint a picture, I’ve interviewed a few talented Techers for some insight on what researching from home looks like for them.