July 28, 2014
Today marks my 4th week working up here at Lawerence Berkeley National Laboratory, although it feels like it has been much longer. The past four weeks have been nothing but useful experience after useful experience. I have learned what it takes to preform experimental research in one of the most prominent labs in the world. But not only that- some of the skills and lessons I’ve learned in the past 4 week will be useful in all types of settings.
When researching in a lab shared by multiple groups and many people, it’s imperative to know how to share. I know right, a little too old for this, but it’s funny how serious it becomes. This basic idea becomes a bit skewed when many people with limited time want to use the same machine at the same time. Time on the thermal evaporator here on the 6th floor of the molecular foundry is quite precious when push comes to shove. So we use calendars and book it days in advance. However this forces you to plan out the next few days in the lab meticulously, ensuring that when your time comes, you’re ready. Okay it’s not that intense. My point is that sharing equipment does make you more organized and more aware of what you have to do and when you have to do it. This might be one of the most important skills I’ve learned at the lab. It’s the experience of being in the lab setting rather than the knowledge about that lab that is truly important.
Research project update: I’m now into the main part of the project. Before was the prep work- making sure I can work the equipment, making sure I can make reproducible samples, and making sure that I understand the process. Now I’m onto creating the real samples that will actually be tested for results. These samples are little tiny capacitors that I create around an organic polymer heterojunction (the junction between an acceptor polymer and donor polymer). This will allow us to apply an electric field across the heterojunction and see how the field interacts with excited electrons in the polymer. Cool stuff.
June 9th, 2014
The Molecular Foundry is an awesome place to work. The employees are friendly and helpful, the facilities are some of the best in the world, and the view is simply unbeatable. This past week has been quite the experience. It feels like one of the longest weeks of my life, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Days always seem longer when you are having new experiences. In the past week I’ve learned how to work numerous expensive pieces of equipment, as well as the intricate steps of making sample organic photovoltaic devices. These experiences are very new and exciting to me, which is why the days have felt so long. Every hour of work I’ve been presented with new information. Now, it’s time to use this information I’ve been given.
Already, I can tell that the information and knowledge I’ve gained from this internship will help me in other research positions in my future. Immediately, I’ve had to deal with the frustrations that research can bring about. And immediately I’ve learned the best way to deal with these frustrations. Do things right the first time. That’s a pretty big rule; usually things are done that way for a reason- the quicker way doesn’t work. Another big one is multitask. No one should be sitting around waiting for a machine to finish working when they could be preparing a different part of the experiment. Time is a limited resource my friends, use it wisely. Finally, pack a lunch. The cafeteria is a far walk (wasting time) and generally isn’t worth what you have to pay.
This upcoming week, I’ll start to work on actual problems, rather than just learning how to create solar cell samples. It’s very exciting to be a part of something that could help change the energy generation in this country for the better. Being a part of the solution has always seemed like something I would like, the feeling is very gratifying.
May 30th, 2014
The first week of my internship was a bit stressful. Figuring out how to get affiliated with the lab, complete the registration, as well as all the safety training (LBNL takes safety very seriously) has taken me all week. On the good side, my badge picture came out alright and I’ve figured out how to time the LBNL buses. Now that that is all out of the way I can look forward to putting some serious thought and effort into my project.
I’m working in Building 67 of the molecular foundry division in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As you can see, the view from this laboratory is worth any difficulty I might encounter. The first time I walked up from the bus stop I was amazed that I would get to work here for the summer. The facility is the one of the newest buildings in LBNL, and is almost completely self sufficient with respect to energy. I can tell working in this facility will be a good fit for me.
Molecular Foundry View
Next week, now that I am affiliated and trained, I will get to start working on my assigned solar cell project. It’s very exciting to think about- I will be researching under one of the leading scientists in the field of light harvesting. This has been something I’ve always wanted to do. My research will mainly focus on extending the life of an exciton in a semiconductor. An exciton, simply an electron and hole pair, is made by exciting an electron in a semiconductor with a photon. This is the basic process of how solar cells work. They absorb light, which excites electrons, which are then run through a circuit. My job is to figure out how to keep those electrons excited, and not just recombine with the electron hole.
But it’s now the weekend, and I think a trip to San Francisco is in order. This is going to be a summer to remember!