This past summer PURM provided me with the opportunity to have a closer look at the world of academic research. I had the chance to discuss ideas and work with my mentor Dr. James Pikul and my PhD student Alissa Johnson. The main goal of my project this summer was to create a novel battery that would reduce the cost of grid storage. To do this, we planned to create both a zinc-iodine battery and a zinc-air battery. The idea was that when we charged our electrode with the zinc-iodine battery, an iodine solid would form as a result of the chemical reactions occurring. Because there is a market for iodine, we hypothesized that we could sell this product to offset the cost of the battery. Then, when the energy is needed we could remove the zinc from the battery and discharge it in a low cost zinc-air battery.
Throughout the PURM experience, I was able to discover what the life of a full-time researcher does and realize my own interest in research. Although I was part of a lab throughout the school year, this experience allowed me to fully dedicate myself to my project by removing the stress and time commitments of classes and extracurriculars. With this freedom and time, I was able to truly take the project in my own hands and fully understand each step of the way. When problems would come about—as they often do in research—I was able to read research papers looking for solutions, ask for advice from others in the lab, and test my ideas by running experiments. This process allowed me to feel more involved in my work and more solidified in my understanding of the science behind the experiments. Outside of the lab, I learned how to present my research to public audiences in conversational language but also to other engineers that have either equal or more background and understanding in electrochemistry than me.
PURM is a great opportunity for students that are looking to dive deeper in a particular subject area or for those that are interested in graduate school/a career in research. I can safely say that I went into the summer without any idea about my post-graduation plans and am now far more confident in my abilities and interest in research.