Students in the 2022 Joint Science and Technology Institute will take part in research projects in a variety of scientific disciplines. Below are a couple examples of the projects that will be executed this summer.

Examining the Room at the Bottom: Electron Microscopy and Data Analysis

Electron microscopy allows one the opportunity to peer beyond what our eyes can see, zooming in on the nano-scale to analyze the smallest of structures. This project will introduce students to electron microscopy, demonstrating its power to analyze the surface and bulk of materials to gather composition and structure information with high resolution. Starting from optical microscopes, students will gain understanding of the operation and data gathered from a scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and transmission electron microscopes (TEM). Through hands-on use of the instruments, students will explore and examine the size and distribution features that can be imaged with each technique, and acquire compositional maps of materials. Finally, students will learn hands-on data analysis of TEM micrographs. Students will be introduced to an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches to analyzing electron micrographs, which will be used to analyze defects in materials, comparing hand-determined results with the AI-ML results and the time-savings thereof.

Mentor: Khalid Hattar

Assistants: Kory Burns, Eric Lang, Nathan Madden

Agency: Sandia National Laboratory


JSTI West-Electron Microscopy and Data Analysis from ORAU on Vimeo.

Exploring Solar Energy Technologies

Use your scientific and engineering skills to explore a variety of solar energy technologies.  We will begin with examining the fundamentals of electricity and heat transfer, then design preliminary experiments and build models, and finally, a group project to build an actual working solar electric and solar thermal heating system.  You will develop hands-on skills using a multimeter to measure current and voltage, learn to sweat pipe fittings, build pressurized water pumping systems, use CAD to print 3D parts, and ultimately how to design an experimentally to explore an engineering concept.  With this project, you will get messy, and much of the work could be outside, so dress appropriately and bring your sunscreen! 

Mentor: Chris Wetteland

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory


JSTI West-Exploring Solar Energy Technologies from ORAU on Vimeo.

Green Microbial Factories

Over the course of the program, we will explore current and future biotechnological applications of photosynthetic microbes (microalgae and cyanobacteria) towards producing “green” chemicals, biofuels and materials, as well as for bioremediation. In the theory portion of the program, we will go over the basic concepts of microbiology, photosynthesis, analytical chemistry and cultivation. The laboratory portion will provide with basic laboratory skills (lab safety, pipetting, sterile technique), microscopic evaluation of microbial samples, cultivation at various scales (from laboratory to pond scale), pigment analysis of algal extracts, characterization by flow cytometry and integration of algal biomass into biomaterials. Additionally, we plan to have invited speakers (in-person and remote) that will discuss about their research and offer some career perspectives. The programs’ success will motivate students to pursue STEM careers that further advance the Nation’s biomanufacturing capability in a sustainable way.

Mentor: Raul Gonzalez

Assistants: Joseph Dumont, Stephen Gomez, Marcos Hernandez, Sara Pacheco, Monica Sanchez, Claire Sanders, Nilusha Sudasinghe, Daniel Trettel

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory


JSTI West-Green Microbial Factories from ORAU on Vimeo.

Physiological and Genomic Characterization of Bacterial Cave Extremophiles

Found in nearly every environmental niche, bacteria are well known to have direct impact on climate, ecosystems, and animal/plant health. However, we have only begun to reveal the immense diversity comprised solely of these “simple” organisms. To continue the quest of discovering potentially novel and ecologically relevant bacterial species, this project investigates the microbial diversity present in subsurface cave systems, where, despite the limited availability of nutrients commonly found in terrestrial soils, microbial life continues to thrive. Herein, our team employs classical microbiological techniques with genomic sequencing and bioinformatics tools to physiologically and genomically characterize potentially novel extremophile bacterial isolates from two cave systems in the United States. This unique project centers on real-time, hands-on techniques to deliver the genuine experience of scientific research to our students.

Mentors: G. Andrew Abernathy, Karen Davenport, Armand Dichosa, Mark Flynn, Buck Hanson, Julia Kelliher, Earl Middlebrook, Aaron Robinson, Migun Shakya, Brett Youtsey

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory


JSTI West-Physiological and Genomic Characterization-of Bacterial Cave Extremophiles from ORAU on Vimeo.

Seeing Plastics for What They Are

Plastics are essential materials in modern life, from commodity products such as plastic utensils, food wraps, and memory foam mattresses to highly specialized materials in energy, medicine, and electronics. The physical and optical properties of plastics are governed by the chemical structures and arrangement of their ingredient molecules called polymers. In this project, students will investigate several topics through hands-on experiments: polymer molecular structures and how they relate to properties of plastics, basic concepts of polymer synthesis, and crystallization of polymers. Scientists use a variety of microscopy tools to analyze the types of polymers and their structure. Students will also experiment with several microscopy methods to image the polymer samples they prepared. Using cameras on their cell phones, students will see how laboratory experiments can be conducted with commonly available tools. After all experiments are done, possible solutions for plastic sustainability and circular economy will be discussed.

Mentors: Mihee Kim & Duncan Ryan

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory


JSTI West-Seeing Plastics for What They Are from ORAU on Vimeo.

Back to top