The Texas A&M Energy Institute is proud to announce the five selected students for the 2018 Texas A&M Energy Institute Student Research Internship Program. Kendal Henderson, Kathryn O’Quinn, Jordan Rosales, Yijun Sun, and Joseph Towers will conduct hands-on energy research for two summer months under the supervision of one of the Texas A&M Energy Institute’s Faculty Affiliates.
Offering full-time paid internships to junior-level Texas A&M University students, the Student Research Internship Program targets undergraduate students at Texas A&M University who are interested in conducting energy-related research.
It is expected that exceptional research results will be developed through this ongoing program, some of which could contribute to a journal publication or be presented at a local or national conference.
A total of 34 students applied from the Texas A&M University Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Chemical Engineering, Department of Chemistry, Department of Economics, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Nuclear Engineering, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, and the College of Geosciences.
After a rigorous review process, five students were selected and will participate in the two-month program that began at the beginning of June and continues until the end of July. A description of each of their research projects is provided below:
Student Home Department: Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering
Advisor: Phanourios Tamamis
The focus of this research project is innovating materials to capture radioactive ions in water through computational design. Nuclear energy could be a global source of power; however, radioactive waste continues to be a main challenge for its proliferation. Self-assembled amyloid materials capable of capturing cesium ions have been developed by using a computational protocol. Mutations are introduced to an existing amyloid scaffold in order to give the amyloid material specific functionality. The amyloid materials’ ability to capture cesium ions was tested and elemental analysis was used to analyze the results. The team found that the amyloid materials were able to capture cesium ions in neutral and acidic conditions. This research project will expand on this computational design to further enhance and compile the protocol for the design of additional materials.
Student Home Department: Department of Physics & Astronomy
Advisor: Peter McIntyre
Superconductive materials have low resistance under certain temperature, current, and magnetic field conditions. However, when these conditions unexpectedly change, a quench occurs and the superconductor transitions to a resistive state, releasing large amounts of heat and potentially destroying the superconducting system. The focus of this work is to develop heater foils that will create a controlled rise in the temperature of superconducting elements upon detection of a quench, minimizing the damage caused by unexpected condition changes. This work will be implemented in a prototype dipole for a proposed electron-ion collider, but has broader applications in other superconducting systems.
Student Home Department: Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology (Bioenvironmental Science)
Advisor: Joshua S. Yuan
Biomass refers to organic matter that contains stored energy, in the form of organic carbon compounds, and is derived from processes such as photosynthesis in plants. It is widely used and is also very capable of reaching all levels of society. The aim of this research project is to convert biomass to energy as efficiently as possible by using the latest in biological approaches and technological innovations. Some of the processes we are refining include hydrocarbon production from photosynthesis and the bioconversion of lignin. Our experiments also utilize bacteria to transform organic byproducts of various industries into usable items such as carbon fiber or liquid fuels. The implications of this project are far reaching towards a more sustainable energy supply and environment.
Student Home Department: College of Geosciences (Environmental Geosciences)
Advisor: Anthony Knap
Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, large amounts of microbial exopolymers were found in the ocean’s surface. Scientists have found that these exopolymer substances (EPS) have an important role in transporting spilled oil from the surface to the ocean bottom. This research is part of the ADDOMEx (aggregation and degradation of dispersants and oil by microbial exopolymers) consortia. The main goal is to understand the mechanisms behind the formation of EPS during an oil spill. Oil is rich in organic compounds that are partially consumed by microorganisms in the ocean as a source of energy; large compounds are broken down into smaller organic compounds through this process. Dramatic ocean property changes may occur, such as a sharp drop of dissolved oxygen levels and a boost in nutrient levels. Normally, oil does not dissolve in water and stays on the surface due to its lower density, yet oil fragments have been discovered in the sediment. Microorganisms may form web-like structures (marine snow) that drags the oil down. Mesocosm studies (this is #6) were categorized into three types: water accommodated fraction (WAF), diluted chemical enhanced water accommodated fraction (DCEWAF), and control groups. A series of values are measured, including dissolved oxygen (DO) level (Xylem Inc.), estimated oil equivalent (EOE; AquaLog Co.), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nutrients, and metabolites. The results and conclusions of this research may be applied to further consideration and studies over the relationships between environmental changes in the ocean and oil spill events. The significance of this research lies in many fields related to ocean quality such as the food chain, fishing, tourism, and other activities.
Student Home Department: Department of Economics
Advisor: Anastasia Shcherbakova
Lobbying has been a powerful and widely used tool among American businesses to advocate for favorable policies. The energy industry is no exception. Since 2008, oil and natural gas firms have spent more than $100 million every year lobbying for issues like energy subsidies and climate policy (OpenSecrets, 2018). It isn’t clear, however, whether renewable energy companies have been able to similarly amass influence over policymakers through lobbying efforts. In this study, we use firm-level quarterly federal lobbying disclosures to explore the patterns of lobbying activity of wind and solar energy companies. We evaluate whether lobbying activity is correlated with the timing of federal renewable subsidy expirations, as well as introduction of new subsidies and renewable policies. Since government policy shapes the business environment, getting a clear picture of the renewable energy industry’s lobbying efforts can help us better understand how much relative influence renewable and conventional energy firms have over federal policy outcomes and what the implications might be for future environmental outcomes.