Resnick Institute

Past Grad Fellows

David Abrecht

David Abrecht

Resnick Fellow

Development of Ionic Liquids Displaying Kubas Interactions for Hydrogen Storage Applications.

David graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemical engineering. He received his bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and paper science and engineering at North Carolina State University. During his undergraduate work, David worked closely with the paper and wood products industry, which led to a strong interest in sustainable forestry and energy and carbon management. At Caltech, his research interests focused on energy technologies, specifically the thermodynamics and kinetics of the storage reactions in hydrogen storage materials, and the development of new materials that allow tuning of these properties.

Advisers: Brent Fultz and Theodor Agapie

Thesis
Daniel Araya

Daniel Araya

Resnick Fellow

Exploiting Turbine Wake Interactions for Enhanced Wind Farm Efficiency

Daniel graduated from Caltech with a PhD in aerospace. He received both his BS and MS degrees in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University, and his master's work focused on the numerical simulation of plasma plumes for space propulsion applications. At Caltech, his research fcused on understanding and manipulating the aerodynamics of large wind farms. Specifically, the wake interaction among closely spaced, vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs). The goal of his PhD work was to enhance the energy efficiency of wind farms by making use of constructive fluid interactions among VAWTs. If successful, this could greatly boost the current wind capabilities in the US, including a means for effectively harvesting wind energy near population centers.

Adviser: John O. Dabiri

Thesis
David Brown

David Brown

Resnick Fellow

Critical Fluctuation Enhanced Thermoelectrics for Waste Heat Power Generation

David graduated from Caltech with a PhD in applied physics. He received his BS in physics from MIT. Before coming to Caltech, David worked at OSRAM Opto-Semiconductors developing ridge waveguide lasers. As a member of the Caltech thermoelectrics group, David focused on characterization of high temperature material transport properties. His Resnick project was to understand the mechanism by which phase transitions can lead to enhanced thermoelectric efficiencies and to apply that understanding toward the development of materials with record thermoelectric efficiency and low cost. David's research has the potential to lead to ubiquitous integration of these materials into devices which can capture wasted heat and directly convert it into electricity.

Advisers: G. Jeffrey Snyder, Austin J. Minnich and Sossina M. Haile

Research Highlight Thesis
Jackson Cahn

Jackson Cahn

Resnick Fellow

A General Solution to the Cofactor Imbalance Problem

Jackson graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. Prior to coming to Caltech, Jackson conducted research on AFM methods for biomaterials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and received his BA in biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. After receiving his BA, he worked for Whitman for one year as a crystallography research assistant. At Caltech, he split his time between the labs of Frances Arnold and Steve Mayo, developing rational and computational shortcuts for directed evolution. In particular, his work focused on engineering the nicotinamide cofactor binding and specificity of oxidoreductase enzymes. This work has the potential to greatly streamline biochemical pathways for biofuels production and green chemistry.

Jackson recieved a 2016 Herbert Newby McCoy Award for outstanding chemistry graduate students for his thesis research, "Engineering, Predicting, and Understanding Nicotinamide Cofactor Specificity".

Advisers: Frances H. Arnold and Stephen L. Mayo

Research Highlight Thesis
Clara Cho

Clara Ji-Hyun Cho

Goldhirsh-Resnick Fellow

Optimizing Structural Robustness and Flexibility of Vertically- Aligned Si Microwire Array Solar Cells

As a graduate student in materials science, Clara investigated the mechanical stability of Si microwire array solar cells embedded in flexible polymer matrices. Clara received her BS in engineering at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering as a member of the inaugural class. Prior to Caltech, Clara worked as a product engineer at Spectrolab, where she became interested in investigating the reliability of highly efficient solar cells. Clara's research aimed to improve the mechanical properties of thin film flexible solar cells for enhanced efficiency, reliability and affordability.

Advisers: Julia R. Greer and Nathan S. Lewis

Nicholas Dou

Nicholas Dou

Goldhirsh-Resnick First Year Fellow 2012

Nicholas graduated from Caltech with a PhD in mechanical engineering. He researched thermal transport in three-dimensional nanoarchitected materials in Prof. Austin Minnich's research group. Prior to attending Caltech, Nicholas received his BS in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering/computer science from MIT. 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.

Thesis
Subbu Duvvuri

Subrahmanyam Duvvuri

Resnick Fellow

Turbulent Drag Reduction For Energy-Efficient Transport

Subrahmanyam graduated from Caltech with a PhD in aeronautics. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras with a BTech in aerospace engineering (2010). During his time at IIT, he experimented with quad-rotor based UAVs and later worked on turbulent jet flows for his thesis. His research focus at Caltech was on understanding the non-linear mechanisms in wall-bounded turbulent flows through a systems approach. The long-term goal of this work is to reduce skin friction drag on vehicles, particularly aircrafts and ships, by actively manipulating flow turbulence around their bodies, thereby improving their performance and energy efficiency.

Subrahmanyam was awarded the 2016 Donald Coles Prize honoring the graduating PhD student in aeronautics whose thesis displays the best design of an experiment or the best design for a piece of experimental equipment.

Advisers: Beverley J. McKeon and John C. Doyle

Research Highlight Thesis
Masoud Farivar

Masoud Farivar

Resnick Fellow

New Distributed Controls to Expand the Grid Capacity for Renewable Energy

Masoud was a Resnick fellow while a PhD student in electrical engineering and a member of the Rigorous Systems Research Group (RSRG) at Caltech. While studying, he also worked as a part-time researcher in the Advanced Technology division of Southern California Edison (SCE) on smart grid projects. Masoud received his BS from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, with a double major in electrical engineering and computer science. His Resnick project focus was on the exploitation of DC/AC inverters in the design of new control schemes for distribution circuits with high penetration of renewables. This research has the potential to enhance the efficiency of the grid, and also increase the amount of intermittent renewable energy that we use.

Advisers: Steven H. Low and Kanianthra M.(Mani) Chandy

Isaac Fees

Isaac Fees

Resnick Fellow

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

Isaac was a Resnick fellow while a graduate student in chemical engineering. He received his BS 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 studied electrokinetic phenomena in confined geometries to develop engineering strategies that exploit surface properties to extract an electric current from a chemical gradient. His Resnick project investigated nano-conduit design to control the mixing of fresh water and salt water to engage new primary energy resources and increase the efficiency of desalination processes.

Advisers: John F. Brady and Zhen-Gang Wang

Bryan Hunter

Bryan Hunter

Resnick Fellow

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

Bryan graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. He received his BS and MS in chemistry at Yale University. At Caltech, he developed innovative techniques to gain insights into water oxidation mechanisms on heterogeneous catalysts. Specifically, he appied 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 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.

Bryan was awarded the Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for his work on the development and characterization of a nickel-iron layered double hydroxide water oxidation catalyst with the goal of developing a solar-driven device for the synthesis of fuels, with hydrogen production as a target. He was also awarded a 2017 Herbert Newby McCoy Award for outstanding chemistry graduate students for his thesis research, "Fuels and Materials from Sunlight and Water".

Adviser: Harry B. Gray

Thesis
Samantha Johnson

Samantha I. Johnson

Resnick Fellow

Stability and Mechanism in Chemically Modified Electrodes for Fuel Production

Sam graduated from Caltech with a PhD in materials science. She received her BS in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder. There, she studied atomic layer deposition for use in sunscreens with Dr. Alan Weimer. At Caltech, she woked in the Goddard group studying mechanisms for small molecule activation, including conversion of methane and CO2 to liquid fuels. Her interest was in attaching these catalysts to surfaces, with the goal of computationally designing robust attachment systems.

Advisers: William A. Goddard and Harry B. Gray

Research Highlight Thesis
Emily Kosten

Emily Kosten

Resnick Fellow

Limiting Emission Angle for Increased Solar Cell Efficiency

Emily graduated from Caltech with a PhD in physics. She did her undergraduate work at Princeton University in physics, where she worked on magnetic materials. After completing her undergraduate work, she joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory working in the Systems Analysis group. Her Resnick project focused on the management of light in solar cells. Specifically, by reducing light emission from solar cells she hoped to achieve high efficiencies to make solar power more affordable.

Adviser: Harry A. Atwater

Research Highlight Thesis
Davide Lionetti

Davide Lionetti

Resnick Fellow

Tetranuclear, Homo- and Heterometallic Clusters for Dioxygen Reduction

Davide graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. He received his BS in chemistry from the University of Notre Dame, where his research focused on titanium complexes of redox-active ligands. At Caltech, Davide studied the dioxygen reduction chemistry of metal oxide clusters as molecular analogs of extended materials known to perform the oxygen reduction reaction. Insight into the mechanism of O2 reduction by these clusters furthers our understanding of what features are desirable in a material for potential use as an O2 reduction catalyst in fuel cells.

Adviser: Theodor Agapie

Research Highlight Thesis
Yiyang Liu

Yiyang Liu

Resnick Fellow

Renewable Feedstocks for the Synthesis of Fuels and Chemicals

Yiyang graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. He obtained his BS from Peking University before coming to Caltech. His Caltech research focused on the production of fuels and chemicals from renewable resources. Specifically, he researched developing efficient and environmentally friendly methods for transforming fatty acids and carbon dioxide into important commodity chemicals that are traditionally produced from petroleum.

Advisers: Brian M. Stoltz and Robert H. Grubbs

Research Highlight Thesis
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 graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. He received his BS in chemistry from the University of Washington, where his research focused on the electrocatalytic reduction of dioxygen using iron porphyrins. His Caltech reseach examined the role of secondary interactions in the binding and reduction of carbon dioxide, nitrate and nitrite. Specifically, synthesis and study of bimetallic complexes for use as molecular electrocatalysts and photocatalyts. He aimed to increase our understanding of the interactions that lead to selective reduction of more complex substrates in the presence of protons towards the development of improved catalysts for the conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid fuels.

Adviser: Jonas C. Peters

Thesis
Prineha Narang

Prineha Narang

Goldhirsh-Resnick First-Year Fellow 2011

Prineha graduated from Caltech with a PhD in applied physics. She did her undergraduate work at Drexel University in materials science and engineering and worked at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center. At Drexel, she served as president of their Engineers Without Borders chapter. Prior to Caltech, her research had been rooted in addressing the need for improved energy storage solutions and she focused on developing commercially viable, sustainable, low cost battery systems. At Caltech, she worked as part of JCAP investigating light absorbers. In 2014, Prineha won the Dow-SISCA Runner-up Prize for the project, "Light Capture, Conversion & Catalysis Strategies for an Integrated Photosynthetic Solar-Fuels Generator via New Materials Physics".

Adviser: Harry A. Atwater

Thesis
Xin Ning

Xin Ning

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Shape-Adaptive Ultra-Lightweight
Solar Concentrators

Xin graduated from Caltech with a PhD in aeronautics. Xin was a member of the Space Structures Laboratory and worked on the design of thin shell structures. His research used optimization techniques to improve the mechanical properties of shape-adaptive ultra-lightweight solar concentrators. Xin received his BEng in aircraft design and engineering from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2009. He earned his MS in aeronautics in 2010 at Caltech.

Adviser: Sergio Pellegrino

Research Highlight Thesis
Navaneetha Krishnan Ravichandran

Navaneetha Krishnan Ravichandran

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Enabling Large Scale Sustainable Lighting through Efficient Heat Dissipation in LEDs

Navaneeth graduated from Caltech with a PhD in mechanical engineering. His thesis talk was titled "Theoretical and Experimental Investigation of Phonon Boundary Scattering in Thin Silicon Membranes". Navaneeth graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and a master's degree in energy technology. For his undergraduate thesis, he worked on analyzing fluid flow and heat transfer through microchannels carrying coolants. His research at Caltech focused on understanding phonon mediated heat transfer through nanoscale semiconductor materials which are essential components of Light Emitting Diodes (LED). The long term goal of his project was to engineer the LED structure for efficient thermal dissipation, which would enhance LED lifetimes and reduce overall cost.

Advisers: Austin J. Minnich and Keith C. Schwab

Thesis
Xiaoqi Ren

Xiaoqi Ren

Resnick Fellow

Markets and Algorithms for Data Center Demand Response

Xiaoqi graduated from Caltech with a PhD in computer science. She received her BS 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.

Xiaoqi was awarded the Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her work on the optimization of large scale data centers. She also won the Bhansali Family Dissertation Prize in Computer Science, awarded by computer science faculty.

Adviser: Adam Wierman

Thesis
Matthew Shaner

Matthew Shaner

Resnick Fellow

Solar Water Splitting Devices for Sustainable Hydrogen Production

Matt graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemical engineering. He earned his BS in chemical engineering from UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2010. At UCSB, Matt studied stabilization methods for precious metal CO2 reduction catalysts in the McFarland group where he also developed a passion for emerging primary energy generation technologies. He has turned this passion into reality at Caltech where he studied solar to fuel systems that can provide long-term storage of solar energy for on-demand power delivery. The goal of his research was to develop stable, efficient and economic devices that form the active component of a solar fuels generation system.

Advisers: Nathan S. Lewis & Harry A. Atwater

Research Highlight Thesis
Michelle Sherrott

Michelle Sherrott

Resnick Fellow

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

Michelle graduated from Caltech with a PhD in materials science. Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, she obtained her bachelor's and master's 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. As a Resnick fellow, she investigated the applicability of monolayer semiconductors to ultralight solar cell devices, and ways to improve their absorption and efficiency through unique “2+1D” geometries.

Adviser: Harry A. Atwater

Research Highlight Thesis
Andrey Shur

Andrey Shur

Resnick First Year Fellow 2013

Andrey was 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. At Caltech, Andrey aimed to apply his broad skill set to the problem of protein engineering. Andrey works with Professor Richard Murray's group and is on track to earn his PhD in Biology and Biological Engineering.

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Resnick Fellow

Synthetic Thermostable Cellulase Mixtures

Matt graduated from Caltech with a PhD in bioengineering. He received his bachelor's and master's in physics from Oxford University. As a member of Frances Arnold's research group, he worked on engineering improved cellulases for second generation biofuels. Specifically, his focus was on using protein recombination techniques to create highly active, highly stable beta-glucosidases.

Adviser: Frances H. Arnold

Thesis
Adam Subhas

Adam Subhas

Resnick Fellow

Catalyzed Calcium Carbonate Dissolution as a Method to Store Anthropogenic CO2

Adam graduated from Caltech with a PhD in geochemistry. He received his BS in chemistry from Haverford College in 2009 and since then focused on studying chemical systems in the earth sciences. Working with his Caltech advisor Jess Adkins, Adam investigated the earth's inorganic carbon cycle. Specifically, he researched 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 worked towards developing this reaction into a scalable, and potentially economically feasible, carbon dioxide sequestration technology.

Adviser: Jess F. Adkins

Thesis
Niklas Thompson

Niklas Thompson

Dow-Resnick Fellow

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

Niklas graduated from Caltech with a PhD 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 researched 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".

Adviser: Jonas C. Peters

Research Highlight Thesis
Anton Toutov

Anton Toutov

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Catalytic Chemical Synthesis without Precious Metals

Anton graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, he obtained a BS in chemistry with a concentration in synthetic organic chemistry from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. As an undergraduate, his research was aimed at the development of new chemical methods for the construction of complex molecules at Queen’s University as well as at Merck & Co. His undergraduate thesis under Prof. Victor Snieckus concluded in the discovery of a new chemical reaction for making pharmaceutical compounds and natural products in a safe and highly efficient manner. Anton’s Caltech research combined the use of synthetic organic chemistry and knowledge of fundamental chemical reactivity to develop radically novel sustainable protocols for chemical synthesis. Drawing inspiration from nature, Anton discovered that a safe, clean, and simple potassium salt had superior performance to precious metals like gold and platinum in catalyzing challenging chemical reactions. He and his team from the Grubbs lab hope to apply the new found knowledge to revolutionize chemical manufacturing in multi-billion dollar industries such as advanced materials, pharmaceuticals, medical diagnostics, and crop protection.

In 2014, Anton won the Dow-SISCA Grand Prize for the project, "Non-Precious Metal Catalysts for a Sustainable Chemistry Industry" and in 2015, he was awarded the Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Entrepreneurship

Adviser: Robert H. Grubbs

Research Highlight Thesis
Rob Usiskin

Rob Usiskin

Resnick Fellow

Robotic Characterization of Fuel Cell Materials for Sustainable Electricity Generation

Rob graduated from Caltech with a PhD in materials science. He studied catalysis in solid oxide fuel cells, which are the most efficient devices yet invented for converting fuel into electricity or electricity into fuel. He has a BA in public policy and an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. Before coming to Caltech, he worked as a mechanical engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he led a 6-person team to mechanically design and space-qualify the primary antenna and several other components of the Mars rover. As a Resnick fellow, he developed a new instrument for robotic characterization of catalyst performance, and used that instrument to better understand existing fuel cell catalysts and to develop new catalysts aimed at helping fuel cells achieve commercial success. Rob also had a strong interest in science outreach. At the 2013 Caltech TEDx Youth event, he wowed the young audience with a hands-on atmospheric science presentation, and he hoped to expand his outreach efforts.

Advisers: Sossina M. Haile and Konstantinos P. Giapis

Research Highlight Thesis
Michael Webb

Michael Webb

Resnick Fellow

New Methods for the Understanding and Design of Polymer Electrolyte
Systems for Improved Battery Technology

Michael graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemical engineering. He obtained a BS in chemical engineering with a concentration on applied physical science and a minor in materials science from UC Berkeley. As an undergraduate, Michael engaged in computational research and simulation through projects at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, the MolSim group at Berkeley, as well Merck & Co. His interest in theoretical methods and energy were combined in his Caltech research, which was targeted towards developing computational methods for the design of enhanced electrolyte solvents in rechargeable batteries. His research aimed to mitigate many of the safety hazards and performance issues that prevent the use of secondary batteries in high energy content applications, such as electric vehicles or large-scale energy storage.

Michael recieved a 2016 Herbert Newby McCoy Award for outstanding chemistry graduate students for his thesis research, "Ion Transport in Polymer Electrolytes: Principles for Design".

Advisors: Thoman F. Miller, III and Zhen-Gang Wang

Research Highlight Thesis
Raymond Weitekamp

Raymond Weitekamp

Goldhirsh-Resnick Fellow

Plasmonic Organic Photovoltaics Via Surface-Initiated Polymerization with Recyclable Catalysts

Raymond graduated from Caltech with a PhD in chemistry. He did his undergraduate work in chemistry at Princeton, where he concentrated his research efforts on the surface modification of electrodes for organic electronic devices. His Caltech research focused on the interactions of light with polymeric materials, including block copolymer photonic crystals and photoinitiated catalysis. While his interests are diverse, the common goal of Raymond's work is to apply fundamental scientific insights to challenges in sustainability and energy. In 2013, Raymond won the Dow-SISCA Runner-up Prize for the project, "Recycling Catalyst Waste with Light: Towards Cradle-to-Cradle Olefin Metathesis".

Advisers: Robert H. Grubbs and Harry A. Atwater

Research Highlight Thesis