Resnick Institute

Current Graduate Fellows

Austin Chadwick

Austin Chadwick

Resnick Fellow

Cultivating Water Resources on River Deltas

Austin is a graduate student in Geology working in Professor Michael Lamb’s group. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Geophysics at UCLA, where he conducted research in geophysical fluid dynamics and tectonic geomorphology. At Caltech, Austin studies the mechanics of river deltas using a combination of theory, laboratory experiments, and remote sensing techniques. His research focuses on the natural tendency of depositional rivers to catastrophically change course, and how the frequency and location of these events are influenced by land subsidence and flood variability. Predicting patterns of channel-switching is crucial for sustainable water resource management on densely populated river deltas. A better understanding of how rivers naturally distribute water and sediment across floodplains and wetlands will help us to recognize the long-term consequences of water infrastructure such as dams and levees, and to revise management solutions like engineered diversions.

Advisor: Michael Lamb

Nicholas Dou

Nicholas Dou

Goldhirsh-Resnick First Year Fellow 2012

Nicholas received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering/Computer Science from MIT and enrolled at Caltech in Fall 2012 in the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Department. As an undergraduate at MIT, Nick became interested in energy generation and storage. With the Device Research Lab, he researched superhydrophobic condensation on nanostructured surfaces. Engineered surfaces provide enhanced heat transfer performance that can increase the efficiency of power plants.

Isaac Fees

Isaac Fees

Resnick Fellow

Controlled Mixing of Fresh Water and Salt Water for Sustainable Electricity Generation

Isaac Fees is a graduate student in Chemical Engineering. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kansas where he conducted research on computational molecular design methodology and simulation of the primary events of photosynthesis. Isaac studies electrokinetic phenomena in confined geometries to develop engineering strategies that exploit surface properties to extract an electric current from a chemical gradient. He is specifically interested in devising nano-conduits to control the mixing of fresh water and salt water to engage new primary energy resources and increase the efficiency of desalination processes.

Advisors: John Brady and Zhen-Gang Wang

Cody Finke

Cody Finke

Resnick Fellow

Harnessing Mobile Technology to Create a Wastewater Infrastructure and Sustainable Water Future in the Developing World

Cody Finke earned his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry with distinction at Carleton College (Northfield, MN), during which he gained research experience at Carleton, at REUs at the University of Washington and the University of Sydney, and while writing his senior integrative exercise on single molecule biophysics. While at Carleton, Cody was recognized with numerous awards including being named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar for Excellence in Education. Cody is currently a Ph.D. student in the Linde Center for Global Environmental Science at Caltech under Prof. Michael Hoffmann where he conducts research aimed at solving the global water crisis and optimizing green fuel sources. His current research projects are 1) Creating software as a tool to enable wastewater treatment in the developing world. 2) Understanding electrocatlysts at the active site level in order to be able to intelligently design and improve electrodes. 3) Improving infrastructure free water treatment to output water clean enough for ecosystem services and reuse.

In 2015, Cody won the Dow-SISCA Runner-up Prize along with Justin Jasper for the project, "Electrochemical+UV On-Site Wastewater Treatment" and for his software engineering work, he won the 2014 Vodafone Wireless Innovations Project competition.

Advisor: Michael Hoffmann

Rachel Ford

Rachel Ford

Resnick Fellow

Next Generation of Copper-based Electrode Materials for Electrochemical CO2 Reduction

Rachel is a graduate student in the Chemistry Department. She received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Florida, where she conducted research in the Butler Polymer Research Laboratory under the advisement of Prof. Ken Wagener and Prof. Ken Sloan. Her research focused on the application of polymer chemistry to enhance sunscreen stability and efficacy. At Caltech, Rachel seeks to develop novel copper-containing polymeric films for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to produce liquid fuels and useful chemicals.

Advisors: Julie Kornfield & Mamadou Diallo

Jinglin Huang

Jinglin Huang

Resnick Fellow

Investigating the Potential Applications of Carbon Nanotubes in Seawater Desalination

Jinglin is a graduate student in Medical Engineering. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Science from Smith College, with a minor in Music. As an undergrad, Jinglin conducted research in biofilm formation, protein-based brain therapeutics modeling, and crystallization process optimization. She joined Dr. Gharib’s lab in 2015 and worked on fabricating carbon nanotube based micro-needles for painless drug delivery. Currently, Jinglin is investigating carbon nanotube fabricated superhydrophobic material for applications in seawater desalination. If successful, this could pave the way for the design of a more efficient, more sustainable, and low energy consumption solar desalination system with continuous operation.

Advisor: Mory Gharib

Bryan Hunter

Bryan Hunter

Resnick Fellow

Mechanistic Understanding of [NiFe]-LDH-Mediated Water Oxidation Catalysis by Novel In-situ Spectroscopies

Bryan is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry at Caltech. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry at Yale University. At Caltech, he develops innovative techniques to gain insights into water oxidation mechanisms on heterogeneous catalysts. Specifically, he will apply operando spectroscopies to identify transient, highly active mixed-metal species during turnover on novel nanocatalysts synthesized by pulsed-laser ablation in liquids. The obtained mechanistic details will enable the development of new, earth-abundant, more efficient, and robust materials for electrocatalytic water splitting for sustainable conversion of solar energy into storable fuels.

Advisor: Harry Gray

Vatsal Jhalani

Vatsal Jhalani

Resnick Fellow

Carrier Dynamics in Materials for Efficient Lighting from First Principles

Vatsal received a BSc in Engineering Physics at UC Berkeley in 2013. His undergraduate research experience was focused on theory and simulation of x-ray free electron lasers, performing research at Livermore, Stanford, and Japan. He joined Caltech Applied Physics and the Bernardi group in the fall of 2014. Vatsal is interested in theoretical condensed matter physics and ab initio studies of material properties. His research focuses on the development and application of first principles calculations to investigate microscopic carrier dynamics and light emission in materials critical for LED technology. His research aims to provide new microscopic insights to ultimately guide the engineering of more efficient lighting devices, and provide a framework which can be transferrable to compute carrier dynamics in other photovoltaic and semiconductor materials for sustainable technologies, such as solar cell, photoelectrocatalytic devices, and power electronics.

Advisor: Marco Bernardi

Sebastian Lee

Sebastian Lee

Resnick Fellow

Quantum Embedding Methods for the Better Design of Liquid Electrolytes in Lithium-ion Batteries

Sebastian is a graduate student in Chemistry working in Professor Thomas Miller’s group. He received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry/Biochemistry and a minor in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. As an undergraduate, he developed his passion for theoretical chemistry under the tutelage of Professor Bernie Kirtman at UCSB and Professor Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia. At Caltech, he applies and develops theoretical methods to computationally guide the better design of liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries. His research aims to address the growing need for safer and higher performing batteries so they may be used in high energy content applications, such as electric vehicles.

Advisor: Tom Miller

Ben Matson

Ben Matson

Resnick Fellow

Reducing Alternative Substrates in a Sea of Protons: The Role of Lewis Acids in the Selective Reduction of Carbon Dioxide, Nitrite and Nitrate.

Ben is a graduate student in Chemistry. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Washington, where his research focused on the electrocatalytic reduction of dioxygen using iron porphyrins. At Caltech, Ben studies the role of secondary interactions in the binding and reduction of carbon dioxide, nitrate and nitrite. Specifically, Ben is interested in the synthesis and study of bimetallic complexes for use as molecular electrocatalysts and photocatalyts. Understanding the interactions that lead to selective reduction of more complex substrates in the presence of protons will aid in the development of improved catalysts for the conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid fuels.

Advisor: Jonas Peters

John Naviaux

John Naviaux

Resnick First Year Fellow 2014

John is a graduate student in Environmental Science and Engineering. He received a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Business Economics from the University of California, Irvine. John worked on a variety of projects while in Irvine that included the economics of urban bus pollution, time at the Large Hadron Collider studying graviton decay, and electrode design in microbial fuel cells. John recently returned from a year abroad in Norway on a Fulbright scholarship studying arctic mercury pollution. While at Caltech, he plans to draw on his diverse background to develop fuel cell technologies and to increase their availability and affordability globally.

David Needell

David Robert Needell

Zeller-Resnick First Year Fellow 2015

David received his B.A. in Physics and Applied Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Bowdoin College and begins work toward a Ph.D. in Materials Science at Caltech Fall 2015. As an undergraduate at Bowdoin, David focused his research toward novel solar cell designs including Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSC’s), multi-junction photovoltaics, and biohybrid solid-state solar cells. Collaborating with the Cliffel Group from Vanderbilt University, David investigated solar cells whose photoactive agent consisted of Photosystem I – a fundamental protein to the initialization of photosynthesis. David is particularly excited to explore photovoltaic designs such as Silicon Microwire Solar Cells and Spectrum-Splitting Photovoltaic Modules.

Xiaoqi Ren

Xiaoqi Ren

Resnick Fellow

Markets and Algorithms for Data Center Demand Response

Xiaoqi is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Caltech. She received her B.S. in Automation at Tsinghua University, China. At Caltech, her research focuses on optimization of today's large scale data centers, including scheduling, energy usage and sustainability, and market design. A major focus of her work is developing algorithms and markets to encourage participation of data centers in demand response programs, allowing large scale data centers to serve as virtual energy storage for the grid.

Advisor: Adam Wierman

Michelle Sherrott

Michelle Sherrott

Resnick Fellow

Towards Ultralight High Efficiency Solar Cells Using 2+1D Materials and Architectures

Michelle is a graduate student in Materials Science from Vancouver, Canada. She obtained her Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in Materials Science and Engineering in 2012. Her undergraduate research focused on computational methods to design silver nanowire networks for applications as flexible transparent conductors. She is now interested in the new physics that can be explored in two-dimensional materials. Specifically, she will be investigating the applicability of monolayer semiconductors to ultralight solar cell devices, and ways to improve their absorption and efficiency through unique “2+1D” geometries.

Advisor: Harry Atwater

Research Highlight
Andrey Shur

Andrey Shur

Resnick First Year Fellow 2013

Andrey is a graduate student in Bioengineering. He has been awarded our 2013 fellowship for an incoming first-year graduate student. He did his undergraduate work in Biochemistry at Harvey Mudd College, where he worked on characterizing mercury binding and transport proteins from a newly discovered Bacillus strain. He went on to work as a research assistant at UCLA where he was able to purify a fragment of a novel cytoskeleton regulating protein important for early fruit fly development. Andrey now seeks to apply his broad set of skills to the problem of protein engineering, with a focus in developing enzymes that will be useful in making bio-fuels.

Adam Subhas

Adam Subhas

Resnick Fellow

Catalyzed Calcium Carbonate Dissolution as a Method to Store Anthropogenic CO2

Adam is a Ph.D. candidate in the division of the Geological and Planetary Sciences. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Haverford College in 2009. Since then, he has focused on studying chemical systems in the earth sciences, and is now working with his advisor Jess Adkins on the earth's inorganic carbon cycle. Specifically, Adam studies the earth's natural process of consuming atmospheric carbon dioxide through its reaction with carbonate minerals in seawater. This reaction can also be engineered to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on timescales relevant to anthropogenic climate change. As a Resnick Fellow, he is developing this reaction into a scalable, and potentially economically feasible, carbon dioxide sequestration technology.

Advisor: Jess Adkins

Armeen Taeb

Armeen Taeb

Resnick Fellow

Building Richer Water Resource Models by Characterizing Unmodeled Phenomena

Armeen received his B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Electrical Engineering from University of Colorado at Boulder. His PhD research focuses on developing statistical models that account for the presence and effect of latent variables (unobserved phenomena) in observational data. A major focus of his work is to use these modeling frameworks to obtain a better understanding of variables influencing California water storage levels and characterize the behavior of water storage levels under changes to these variables. He hopes that his work could serve as a useful tool for making informative water sustainability policies.

Advisor: Venkat Chandrasekaran

Niklas Thompson

Niklas Thompson

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Toward Sustainable Nitrogen Fixation: Elucidating the Mechanism of Nitrogen Reduction by Molecular Catalysts

Niklas is a graduate student in Chemistry. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago he studied chemistry and mathematics, earning Bachelor of Science degrees in both fields. At Chicago, Niklas investigated the coordination chemistry of palladium with bulky N-heterocyclic carbene ligands in the Hillhouse group, with the aim of stabilizing unusual bonding motifs relevant to catalysis. At Caltech, Niklas researches the mechanism of the fixation of dinitrogen to ammonia catalyzed by iron complexes. The fixation of nitrogen is a process essential to all life, and is currently practiced on an enormous scale industrially. Understanding how to catalyze this reaction under mild conditions with earth-abundant materials constitutes an important step in developing a sustainable method for the synthesis of ammonia for the purpose of fertilizer production.

In 2015, Niklas won the Dow-SISCA Grand Prize along with Trevor Del Castillo for the project, "Toward Sustainable Nitrogen Fixation: Developing Fe-catalysts for Direct N2 to NH3 Conversion".

Advisor: Jonas Peters

Research Highlight
Simon Todtli

Simon Todtli

Cross-Resnick First Year Fellow 2015

Simon did his undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich and will pursue his graduate studies in Aeronautics at Caltech. For his Bachelor thesis he worked on the production of bulk chemicals from renewable resources and his Master thesis focused on the numerical simulation and control of turbulent channel flows. While at Caltech, he plans to further explore the dynamics and control of wall-bounded turbulent flows, with the ultimate goal of reducing drag on engineering surfaces such as ships or pipes. Advances in this field would offer the opportunity for vast energetic savings in the transport sector and thus help to reduce the ecological footprint of today's globalized economy.

Kevin Vu

Kevin Vu

Zeller-Resnick First Year Fellow 2016

Kevin is a graduate student in Environmental Science and Engineering. He received his B.E. in Civil Engineering from Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York (CCNY). During his undergraduate career, Kevin pursued an interest in the issue of potable water. This led him to conduct research on the presence of pharmaceuticals in water, work on multiple projects in the CCNY chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA, and contribute to water treatment research at the EPA, including a study on naturally-occurring strontium. At Caltech, Kevin is interested in developing a water treatment system capable of producing drinkable water under strict constraints.

Cora Went

Cora Went

Cross-Resnick First Year Fellow 2016

Cora is a graduate student in Physics who joined Harry Atwater’s group in August 2016. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015 with a B.S. in Physics. She participated in undergraduate research projects focused on characterizing three different materials with applications to solar cells: III-V semiconductors, charge-transfer complexes, and colloidal quantum dots. She worked for a summer at the Fraunhofer Institute in Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg, Germany, where she investigated power-dependent photoluminescence spectroscopy of III-V semiconductors. In the Atwater group, she studies two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides for applications to ultrathin, high-efficiency, and low-cost solar cells.

Xiaolin Xu

Xiaolin Xu

Resnick Fellow

Charge Carrier Dynamics of Perovskite Solar Cells Studied by fs-THz Spectroscopy

Xiaolin is a graduate student in Materials Science. She received her Bachelor of Science in Material Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China. At Caltech, Xiaolin studies charge carrier dynamics in organometallic lead halide perovskites. Specifically, she will use ultrafast spectroscopic techniques to investigate the charge-carrier recombination and mobility mechanisms in lead halide materials, followed by detailed theoretical and experimental studies of the coupling between the electron and nuclear degrees of freedom, with the goal of rationally designing pervoskite materials for solar energy conversion.

Advisor: Geoffrey Blake

Hao Zhao

Hao Zhao

Resnick Fellow

Analyzing California Groundwater Institutions

Hao is a graduate student in Social Science who enjoys talking and collaborating with people from many different disciplines. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Peking University, China and Master of Philosophy in Economics from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His previous research covered labor economics, economic history and institutional economics. He started working with Dr. Rosenthal in the spring of 2016 on seeking solutions to the drought problem in California. At that time, he also worked in Dr. Plott’s Lab for Experimental Economics and Political Science. His fellowship research aims to analyze the underground water management rules across various basins in California and develop feasible strategies for sustainable and efficient water management. His work will require a thorough understanding of hydrological conditions of underground basins and engineering constraints in groundwater monitoring and transfer.

Advisor: Jean-Laurent Rosenthal