Research Projects by Subject

Note: Each research project will involve background reading for the interns provided by their mentors. Each research project will involve a final presentation by the interns.

Interns are expected to work collaboratively on the same project and/or data set. This may preclude rising seniors from submitting papers based on such projects to the Intel Science Talent Search competition.

Chemistry & Biochemistry

Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-01 Title: Silver (Ag) Nanoparticles Deposited Onto Graphene Quantum Dots
Primary mentor: Rene Mercado
Faculty advisor: Prof. Shaowei Chen
Other mentors: Yi Yang
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Fossil fuels have been the primary source of energy in our daily life – e.g., to heat or cool our buildings, power our cars, and run our appliances. However, fossil fuels are becoming limited in supply and will deplete by the year 2050, as predicted by the Department of Energy (DOE). Therefore, it is of urgent importance to develop a unique approach where chemical energy stored in fuel molecules is converted into electricity such as a fuel cell. Fuel cell operation typically involves two reactions, oxidation of small organic fuel molecules (e.g., methanol, ethanol, etc.) at the anode, and the reduction of oxygen into water at the cathode. Both require an effective catalyst. However, at the cathode a high mass loading of the catalyst is needed for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) because of its sluggish electron transfer kinetics. Therefore, this project is using Ag nanoparticles and depositing them onto nitrogen doped graphene quantum dots (GQDs). Nitrogen doped GQDs have showed thay they have comparable activity to that of Pt/GQD as a metal free catalyst, but by controlling the nitrogen content in the GQD matrix while having Ag deposited, this can lead to enhanced activity for ORR.

Tasks: The SIP interns will start by reviewing articles which will help them build a strong understanding of the material. They will learn how to synthesize nanoparticles, use characterizing techniques. Therefore, the will be able to plot their own data. Furthermore, the interns will learn how to intrepret data and will be expected to explain their results.

URL: http://chen.chemistry.ucsc.edu/schen.htm
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Statistical data analysis
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-02 Title: Study of Catalytic Performance of the Materials by Tuning the Interactions between Metal Nanoparticles and Supports
Primary mentor: Yi Peng
Faculty advisor: Prof. Shaowei Chen
Other mentors: Rene Mercado
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Some of the traditional metal nanoparticles (MNPs) based catalysts are limited by several disadvantages such as low accessible surface area, poisoning by surface capping ligands, poor durability, and internal inactivity. Moreover, most of the active MNPs are expensive and have low abundance on Earth. Thus, it is necessary and important to search for efficient methods to enhance the catalytic performance of the MNPs, however challenging this may be. Scientists have tried different ways of improving the performance of the catalysts, such as alloying MNPs, shape and/or size control of MNPs, etc. In this project, the SIP interns and mentor are going to study the effect of the interaction of MNPs and supports and try to enhance the catalytic performance of the catalysts by tuning the interactions.

Tasks: The SIP interns will start by reviewing articles which will help them build a strong understanding of the materials. The interns will learn a variety of strategies to synthesize metal nanoparticles on different supports, use a variety of techniques to characterize the materials, and learn how to plot and analyze the data. Furthermore, the SIP interns will learn how to interpret data and will be expected to explain their resuts.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Lab work; statistical data analysis
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON OFF ON ON ON ON ON

Special age requirement: The applicant must be 16 years old by June 12, 2017.

Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-04 Title: Size-Control of Silver-Nanoparticles for Enhancement of Antibacterial Activity
Primary mentor: Gustavo Chata
Faculty advisor: Prof. Shaowei Chen
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: The overuse of antibacterial antibiotics has led to bacterial resistance. Beta-lactam antibiotics which are specific in targeting cell membrane have lost their antibacterial potency due to the production beta-lactamase (enzymes degrade beta-lactam antibiotics). Bacterial resistance has increased regardless of the concentration of the antibiotic and/or use of various analogues. The developed resistance of bacteria has driven the study of metal-based nanoparticles like silver-nanoparticles to incur activity via ionization of the metal. While silver-nitrate (a metal-based salt of silver) demonstrate enhanced antibacterial activity in certain biological media, its activity can decrease in the presence of certain type of anions such as Cl–. Therefore the design of a AgNP may improve activity of Ag in physiological conditions by allowing for control of its size, surface functionalization, and structure.

Tasks: The SIP interns will be trained in the synthesis, characterization, data analysis, and biological applications of metal-based nanoparticles. Literature readings will be assigned weekly to reinforce the SIP interns' knowledge of the technical and conceptual aspects of the research.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON OFF ON ON ON ON

Special age requirement: The applicant must be 16 years old by June 12, 2017.

Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-05 Title: Advanced Transition Metal Chalcogenides for Electrochemical Water Splitting
Primary mentor: Tianyi Kou
Faculty advisor: Prof. Yat Li
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Hydrogen and oxygen play vital roles in state-of-the-art energy storage devices such as fuel cells, metal-air batteries, etc. Because it produces no hazardous by-products, electrochemical water splitting represents a sustainable way to produce hydrogen and oxygen. However, the overpotential and high price of noble metal catalysts largely restrict wide applications of electrochemical water splitting. In contrast, some transition metal chalcogenides have recently attracted a lot of attention due to their low price and high efficiency in lowering the overpotential. The project involving SIP interns will explore the synthesis of advanced transition metal chalcogenides and will attempt to figure out a strategy to further enhance their catalytic performance in water splitting. 

Tasks: The SIP interns will learn fundamental skills in the synthesis of nanostructured transition metal chalcogenides. Materials characterization methods such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), etc. will be introduced to the interns and they will explore ways to characterize the as-synthesized materials using the strategies mentioned above under the mentor's supervision. Using the electrochemical workstation, the interns will investigate the performance of water splitting catalysts. The SIP interns will also learn how to analyze data and find possible ways to improve the performance of the catalysts.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-06 Title: Transition Metal Nitride for High Performance Li-ion Batteries
Primary mentor: Bin Yao
Faculty advisor: Prof. Yat Li
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, state-of-the-art energy storage devices, have received much research interest because of their high energy density and stable cycling performance. Over the past decade, various kinds of electrodes have been developed, such as transition metal oxides, carbonaceous materials, conducting polymers, and transition metal nitrides. Among them, transition metal nitrides are promising choices because of their high conductivity, excellent electrochemical property, low-cost, high molar density, and superior chemical stability. The SIP interns and the mentor will explore novel nanostructured transition metal nitride, as well as new chemical methods to increase their electrochemical performance.          

Tasks: The SIP interns will learn the basic principles of designing high performance electrodes for energy storage systems and will use various methods to synthesize nanomaterials. In addition, the interns will also gain hands-on experience with characterization of nanomaterials (electron microscopy and spectroscopy), Li-ion battery device fabrication, electrochemical tests, and data analysis.

URL: http://li.chemistry.ucsc.edu/people
Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work; statistical data analysis
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON OFF REM ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-07 Title: Salt Effects on the Structure and Spectroscopy of Conjugated Polyelectrolyte Complexes
Primary mentor: Will Hollingsworth
Faculty advisor: Prof. Dr. Alex Ayzner
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Conjugated polyelectrolytes (CPEs) are inexpensive, water soluble, self-assembling polymers with promise in light harvesting and alternative energy. Their light harvesting ability is connected to their physical orientation and structure. Whether they are straightened out, folded neatly, stacked, or crumpled on a microscopic level ultimately determines their function. Understanding and controlling how these complex structures are formed is vital to realizing their potential to harvest and transfer sunlight. One way to control CPE structures is by adding complex salts with varying ratios of hydrophobic and hydrophilic surface areas to CPEs while they are in solution. The effects of these salts can be studied by Dynamic Light Scattering to probe structure, and steady-state photoluminescence and absorption spectroscopy to probe their light-harvesting capabilities.

Tasks: The SIP interns will learn the ins-and-outs of a physical chemistry laboratory including how to prepare conjugated polyelectrolyte samples, work with solvents, and general lab practice. In addition, they will carry out spectroscopic measurements using dynamic light scattering, and photoluminescence and absorption spectroscopy. The interns will learn data analysis and spectra interpretation using MATLAB software.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: None
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Computer programming; lab work
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON REM ON ON ON ON ON ON


Code Research Project Descriptions
CHE-08 Title: Gold Particles with N,S Doped Carbon Shell as Electrocatalysts
Primary mentor: Bingzhang Lu
Faculty advisor: Prof. Shaowei Chen
Location: UCSC Main Campus
Number of interns: 2

Project description: Different heteroatoms doped carbon are widely studied in electro-catalysis. Metals with different d-electrons always have electron effects on the closed carbon. Using such methods, the electronic structure of carbon can be adjusted by the metal. In this project, the mentor and interns will design gold-carbon core-shell catalysts. By adjusting the metal center, the carbon-shell can be use as a catalyst for oxygen reduction, oxygen evolution, hydrogen evolution, or carbon-monoxide oxidation.

Tasks: The SIP interns will be tasked to learn some basic chemistry and will be trained in the use of the centrifuge, electrochemical workstation, furnace, ultraviolet spectra, etc. They will be trained on the basic principles of the synthesis and characterization of materials.

Required skills for interns prior to acceptance: Lab work
Skills intern(s) will acquire/hone: Lab work
Program Week Number: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Mentor's availability: ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON ON

Special age requirement: The applicant must be 16 years old by June 12, 2017.