As a rising sophomore, majoring in Chemistry and Biology, I worked this summer with Dr. Daeyeon Lee from CBE and Dr. Zahra Fakhraai from the Chemistry department. The goal for my summer research was to develop a coating technology for a tent that will allow it to repel and divert water by exhibiting superhydrophobic and very slippery behavior. I worked along five other students and together, we designed a relief tent and a coating method that would allow it to gather water and collect it for human use.
My role in this project was to test and characterize all the sample that were made. By measuring the contact angle that our coated and uncoated samples had with water I could obtain an objective, repeatable, and quantifiable measure on how hydrophobic or hydrophilic each surface was. Additionally, by measuring the angle at which the droplets of water would roll off the surface, I determined how slippery they were. The project required daily communication between all the members as the results of my experiments would shape the coating methods we would use and the design of our relief tent.
The whole experience, although short, showed me how research works. At the beginning, time was spent in building a background of knowledge both in previous work, basic concepts, and use of equipment. As the summer progressed, I spent less time reading and shadowing and more time working on my own and with my teammates. I received mentorship directly from three faculty members and five graduate students, however, many others helped me during this summer, as everyone in both laboratories offered a lot guidance.
These months have proven to be extremely useful, not only because I was able to learn and practice how to use the goniometer, atomic force microscope, and ellipsometer, but it has made me more patient and open-minded when it comes to working with other people. It taught me that even if others work in a different way, they can offer insight and a fresh view. I have met so many people that are currently doing their research at Penn and pursuing their graduate degrees. This exposure has encouraged me to join the lab group I worked with and continue to do research this fall and future semesters. My goal is to attend an MD-PHD program after I finish my undergraduate studies and I believe the advantages of being part of this summer research group have only started to show. This summer has been a big step forward academically and socially for me to achieve my goals.