Instead of lounging about a pool or taking it easy this summer, associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Prabhjot Menon, and two recent Moraine Valley graduates worked at Argonne National Laboratory for 10 weeks.
In 2015, Dr. Menon first participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Visiting Faculty Program, working with Argonne’s distinguished scientist, Dr. Michael Pellin, on a project exploring Ultrananocrystalline Diamond (UNCD)—a material discovered at Argonne—for electrocatalysis. It’s not often that faculty participate for three straight years, as Dr. Menon has done. The faculty program allows for student interns, as long as they have two semesters of chemistry under their belt. Najia Ali , one of Dr. Menon’s students from fall 2016, and Fatima Saeed applied and were accepted this summer along with nearly 400 students around the country.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity we have at Argonne. This has been good for the students,” Dr. Menon said. “As for myself, it has been very helpful to have the same project for three years. What I learn here will help me connect the science and technology for my students in class. My goal is to engage students for as long as possible. I also always wanted to get our honors program involved in research, and this is my opportunity to be the bridge.”
The internship began May 31 and ran through Aug. 4, five days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Student interns, many from out-of-state, have on-site housing complete with planned social activities. Argonne is pushing for more undergraduate research, opening up more opportunities of exposure in the sciences for students. Dr. Menon is working with Dr. Pellin again. She and the students are focusing on a project that deals with creating and experimenting with nuclear clad. Already Ali and Saeed have created film that they will test.
Ali, who is pursuing a major in biology, and Saeed, who is a chemical engineering major, are both happy and excited to have exposure to diverse work in the science field that could influence their future studies and careers.
“I saw this opportunity and thought it would be a good experience. I’ve met other students with different majors, and we’ve exchanged experiences and advice,” Saeed said.
“Being part of this research project, no matter what science field, is helpful. I’ve been able to learn about the research process and that you’re not always going to get results you want, but that you have to keep trying,” Ali said.
At the end of the internship, all students must showcase their work in a poster presentation.
PHOTO CAPTION: Moraine Valley Community College graduates Fatima Saeed, from left, and Najia Ali and associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Prabhjot Menon, are working in a summer program at Argonne National Laboratory.