Resnick Institute

Past Graduate Fellows

David Abrecht

David Abrecht

Resnick Fellow

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

David graduated from Caltech with a Ph.D. 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.

Advisors: Brent Fultz and Theo Agapie

Daniel Araya

Daniel Araya

Resnick Fellow

Exploiting Turbine Wake Interactions for Enhanced Wind Farm Efficiency

Daniel earned his Ph.D. in Aerospace in Fall 2015. He received both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University, and his masters 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 Ph.D. 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 U.S., including a means for effectively harvesting wind energy near population centers.

Advisor: John Dabiri

David Brown

David Brown

Resnick Fellow

Critical Fluctuation Enhanced Thermoelectrics for Waste Heat Power Generation

David graduated from Caltech with a Ph.D. in Applied Physics. He received his B.S. 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.

Advisors: Jeff Snyder, Austin Minnich and Sossina Haile

Research Highlight
Jackson Cahn

Jackson Cahn

Resnick Fellow

A General Solution to the Cofactor Imbalance Problem

Jackson earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in Winter 2016. Prior to coming to Caltech, Jackson conducted research on AFM methods for biomaterials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and received his B.A. in Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. After receiving his B.A., 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 graduate students for his thesis research, "Engineering, Predicting, and Understanding Nicotinamide Cofactor Specificity".

Advisors: Frances Arnold and Stephen Mayo

Research Highlight
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 matrix. Clara received her B.S. in Engineering at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering as a member of the inaugural class. Prior to returning 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 will potentially improve the mechanical properties of thin film flexible solar cells for enhanced efficiency, reliability and affordability.

Advisors: Julia Greer and Nate Lewis

Subbu Duvvuri

Subrahmanyam Duvvuri

Resnick Fellow

Turbulent Drag Reduction For Energy-Efficient Transport

Subrahmanyam Duvvuri earned his Ph.D. in Aeronautics in Winter 2016. 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 Ph.D. student in Aeronautics whose thesis displays the best design of an experiment or the best design for a piece of experimental equipment.

Advisors: Beverley McKeon and John Doyle

Research Highlight
Masoud Farivar

Masoud Farivar

Resnick Fellow

New Distributed Controls to Expand the Grid Capacity for Renewable Energy

Masoud is a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering and a member of the Rigorous Systems Research Group (RSRG) at Caltech. Since June of 2010, he has also worked as a part-time researcher in the Advanced Technology division of Southern California Edison (SCE) on smart grid projects. Masoud received his B.S. degree from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, with a double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His current research focus is 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.

Advisors: Steven Low and Mani Chandy

Samantha Johnson

Samantha I. Johnson

Resnick Fellow

Stability and Mechanism in Chemically Modified Electrodes for Fuel Production

Sam received her Ph.D in Materials Science in Fall 2016. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from 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.

Advisors: Bill Goddard & Harry Gray

Research Highlight
Emily Kosten

Emily Kosten

Resnick Fellow

Limiting Emission Angle for Increased Solar Cell Efficiency

Emily graduated from Caltech with a Ph.D. 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.

Advisor: Harry Atwater

Research Highlight
Davide Lionetti

Davide Lionetti

Resnick Fellow

Tetranuclear, Homo- and Heterometallic Clusters for Dioxygen Reduction

Davide earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in fall 2015. He received his B.S. degree 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.

Advisor: Theo Agapie

Research Highlight
Yiyang Liu

Yiyang Liu

Resnick Fellow

Renewable Feedstocks for the Synthesis of Fuels and Chemicals

Yiyang earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in spring 2015. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree 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.

Advisors: Brian Stoltz and Bob Grubbs

Research Highlight
Prineha Narang

Prineha Narang

Goldhirsh-Resnick First-Year Fellow 2011

Prineha was awarded our fellowship for incoming first-year graduate students in 2011. 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". She earned her Ph.D. in spring 2015. Her defense was titlted "Light-matter Interactions in Semiconductors and Metals: From Nitride Optoelectronics to Quantum Plasmonics".

Xin Ning

Xin Ning

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Shape-Adaptive Ultra-Lightweight
Solar Concentrators

Xin earned his Ph.D. in Aeronautics in spring 2015 from Caltech where we was a member of the Space Structures Laboratory. Xin worked on the design of thin shell structures. Specifically, he researched using optimization techniques to improve the mechanical properties of shape-adaptive ultra-lightweight solar concentrators. Xin received his Bachelor of Engineering in Aircraft Design and Engineering from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2009. He received a Master of Science in Aeronautics from California Institute of Technology In 2010.

Advisor: Sergio Pellegrino

Research Highlight
Navaneetha Krishnan Ravichandran

Navaneetha Krishnan Ravichandran

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Enabling Large Scale Sustainable Lighting through Efficient Heat Dissipation in LEDs

Navaneeth earned his Ph.D. in summer 2016 from Caltech. 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 bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering and a masters 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.

Advisors: Austin Minnich & Keith Schwab

Matthew Shaner

Matthew Shaner

Resnick Fellow

Solar Water Splitting Devices for Sustainable Hydrogen Production

Matt received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in Fall 2015. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, 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.

Advisors: Nate Lewis & Harry Atwater

Research Highlight
Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Resnick Fellow

Synthetic Thermostable Cellulase Mixtures

Matt received his bachelor's and master's degree in Physics from Oxford University and graduated with a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Caltech. 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.

Advisor: Frances Arnold

Anton Toutov

Anton Toutov

Dow-Resnick Fellow

Catalytic Chemical Synthesis without Precious Metals

Anton received his Ph.D. in Chemistry in Fall 2016. Born in Kiev, Ukraine, he obtained a Bachelor of Science 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

Advisor: Bob Grubbs

Research Highlight
Rob Usiskin

Rob Usiskin

Resnick Fellow

Robotic Characterization of Fuel Cell Materials for Sustainable Electricity Generation

Rob graduated from Caltech with a Ph.D. 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 B.A. in Public Policy and an M.S. 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 that recently landed. As a Resnick fellow, he developed a new instrument for robotic characterization of catalyst performance, and he is now using that instrument to better understand existing fuel cell catalysts, to develop new catalysts, and ultimately, to help achieve commercial success for fuel cells. Rob also has 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 hopes to expand his outreach effort.

Advisors: Sossina Haile and Konstantinos P. Giapis

Research Highlight
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 Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in Spring 2016. He obtained a Bachelor of Science 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 graduate students for his thesis research, "Ion Transport in Polymer Electrolytes: Principles for Design".

Advisors: Thomas Miller and Zhen-Gang Wang

Research Highlight
Raymond Weitekamp

Raymond Weitekamp

Goldhirsh-Resnick Fellow

Plasmonic Organic Photovoltaics Via Surface-Initiated Polymerization with Recyclable Catalysts

Raymond earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Caltech in spring 2015. 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".

Advisors: Bob Grubbs and Harry Atwater

Research Highlight