A group of eight undergraduate students from Northwestern University gave their summer internships a twist by teaming up to learn about an array of different advanced manufacturing technologies at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Both the students and laboratory staff say the internships yielded positive results.
Participants say the opportunity has given them valuable real-world experience, allowing them to work alongside some of the most renowned researchers in the field — using some of the most sophisticated equipment on Earth.
Scientists at Argonne are equally thrilled, saying they’re glad to help grow the next generation of researchers and innovators.
“Designing products that have advanced properties such as greater durability or improved heat transfer, requires fundamental science and teams comprising chemists, engineers and computer and materials scientists,” said Santanu Chaudhuri, Director of Manufacturing Science and Engineering at Argonne. “The students are learning how to leverage each others’ skill sets to have a big impact on solving global problems in energy, security and health.”
“I cannot stress enough how valuable it is to get actual experience in using science to solve real-world problems. It simply doesn’t compare to learning in a lecture.” — David MacCumber, Northwestern University student
The students meet to discuss their research and how traditional science is being adapted to meet the needs of Industry 4.0. They learn how sensors can be combined with edge computing and machine learning to facilitate real-time control of manufacturing processes, thereby reducing defects and waste.
They also learn how new material scale-up processes can turn native grasses into the basis for high-performance, sustainable materials for batteries and construction.
This opportunity is a collaboration between the Northwestern Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering (NAISE) and Argonne’s Manufacturing Science program. NAISE brings together researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne to create powerful collaborations in fields such as energy, biological and environmental systems, data science and computation, materials and national security. The focus on advanced manufacturing technologies is the newest NAISE opportunity to provide students and post-doctoral scholars with unique educational and training opportunities.
This marks the first year a cohort of undergraduates from the university focused on manufacturing science research. Jennifer Dunn, an associate professor at Northwestern and NAISE Director of Research, said some of the participants are already considering a laboratory career as a result of their participation.
“This has been a tremendous success,” she said. “We look forward to building up for next year.”
Advanced manufacturing — designing new materials to use in manufacturing and the creation of more efficient manufacturing processes — is a growing field that draws upon the expertise of scientists from many disciplines, including engineering, materials science, computing and chemistry.
The students who signed up to learn about advanced manufacturing technologies worked on research in the areas of flame spray pyrolysis and machine learning, as well as various forms of 3-D printing.
Michael Livingston Wright, 18 and from Sacramento, California, said he’s better able to analyze and present scientific information as a result of his time at Argonne. He’s currently using X-ray techniques at the Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, to observe the structural evolution inside metal additive manufacturing samples as they are being printed.
“The amount of painstaking preparation that goes into a single experiment is incredible,” he said. “The experimental setups here at Argonne, as well as the techniques involved, are just as scientifically creative as they are groundbreaking. To be a part of these scientific endeavors as a rising sophomore has been amazing. I would definitely encourage others to apply to the program.”
David MacCumber, 19 and from Chicago, feels the same. He’s currently assisting Argonne researchers in uncovering valuable information about a relatively new method of fabricating nanoparticles, called flame spray pyrolysis, by applying statistical tools like machine learning to examine large data sets.
“I cannot stress enough how valuable it is to get actual experience in using science to solve real-world problems,” he said. “It simply doesn’t compare to learning in a lecture.”
Patricia Lohman Meza, 19 and from Algonquin, Illinois, is currently focused on additive manufacturing of biopolymers from food waste — including vegetables and shrimp shells — to promote sustainable manufacturing within a circular economy, a regenerative system in which resources are highly controlled.
“This program has helped me learn the general research process from start to finish, as well as how to perform a proper extensive literature search and gather critical information,” she said.
Sean Wang, 19 and from Rio Hondo, Texas, is also researching additive manufacturing.
“We take high-speed pictures of the printing process and use machine learning to analyze the images to see how the printing process is affected by different settings,” he said, adding that the highlight of the program was seeing his group’s experiment run in the APS. “The experiment requires facilities that are only available in a few locations around the world, so the experience of working at Argonne is invaluable.”
Wang strongly encourages other students to consider the program.
“Getting to work on new and developing technologies that have the potential to revolutionize current industries is an amazing experience that you will remember for years to come,” he said. “And if that technology is implemented in the future, you’ll get to look back and say, ‘I worked on that!’”
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Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.