Students in the 2023 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.

Climate Warriors: Microbes at Work

Climate change is a serious issue that our planet is facing, and it's important to address its impacts, especially in saline environments. One effective way to combat this is by using beneficial microbes to enhance soil quality and crop production. In this workshop, we will educate students about the different types of microbes and their role in improving crop health. We will also delve into how climate change affects agriculture and the environment and explore ways to reduce its effects. Through lab experiments, we will investigate how salinity affects plants and microalgae and how we can utilize these tiny microbes to create more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems that can better withstand the challenges brought about by climate change. This workshop will help students to understand the challenges of climate change and the potential of microbes to fight them. We also welcome early career scientists and postdocs from LANL to share their research interests and help discuss career prospects. Our aim with this workshop is to engage the younger generation in meaningful discussions to create a brighter and more sustainable future.

Mentors: Sangeeta Negi, Buck Hanson

Assistants: Emily Boak, Laverne Gallegos-Graves, Stephen Gomez, Raul Gonzalez, Meriam Hernandez-Romero, Leah Johnson, Kayla Kozisek, Eric Moore, Dean Morales, Joseph Sanchez, Gabriel Smith, Daniel Trettle

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: Bioscience (I-BIOME)


Cycling in Reverse!

Have you ever wondered why the things we buy are designed the way they are? Why did the manufacturer pick that material, that shape, or that color? Well, in this project we are going to try to answer those questions by dissecting a bicycle helmet from many different angles. This is something engineers do all the time. We are going to put the scientific method into action by answering the why, what, and how questions about the product. We will develop methods to identify materials from magnifications you can see with your eyes all the way down to magnifications that you cannot! We will perform simple strength tests from standards that scientists use every day to determine if what the manufacturer is saying is true. Finally, using all this information we will figure out if the product could be made better given the manufacturing trade-offs that exist for any consumer good. We will talk about sustainability, quality assurance, and the importance of qualitative data in the scientific process. Short, twenty-minute lectures on materials engineering will be sprinkled in throughout the two-week research experience. Get ready to never look at materials ever the same after this research experience!

Mentor: Benjamin Derby

Assistants: Bernard Gaskey, Sim Kim

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: Materials Physics and Applications


Emergency Response to Chemical, Biologic, Radiation, Nuclear, and Explosive (CBRNE) Incidents

The goal of the project is to provide the student with an introduction to how the areas of study for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are associated and can be applied in theory and practice to the world of emergency response to Chemical, Biologic, Radiation, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) incidents. CBRNE materials can potentially be used as a type of weapon that have the ability to create both mass casualties as well as mass disruption of society. The mentors will provide both practical application, exercises, and experiments to help build the foundation for the student to understand the methods of mitigating a CBRNE incident. The foundation will incorporate analyzing the incident, planning the response, implementing the planned response, evaluating the progress, and incident termination. 

Mentors: Ryan Berg, Jessica Bishop, Kevin Brake, Leeroy Cienega, Bill Hageman, Pedro Hernandez, Jr., Gaylon Holder, Wendy Locke, Dan McDonald, Chris Rittner, Brandon Williams, Jessica Woods

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: Emergency Response


From Classical Microbiology to Next-Generation Sequencing: Physiological and Genomic Characterizations of a Bacterial Isolate

Bacteria are considered one of the oldest and most diverse forms of life in Earth’s total history, having thrived in nearly every known ecological niche and co-evolved with every plant, animal, fungi, and human. Yet, we have only begun to fully reveal the critical functions and contributions of bacteria in the environment or host they inhabit. To emphasize a fundamental understanding of bacteria and their implications to human health, national and energy securities, mentors from LANL Bioscience will guide select high school students in classical micro- and molecular- biological techniques which, in turn, will lead to next-gen sequencing technologies and hands-on bioinformatics practices. The goals of this mentorship are to provide promising high school students the real-world experience needed to characterize bacteria – from both the physiological and genomic perspectives – and to help prepare them to be our nation’s future scientists.

Mentors: G. Andrew Abernathy, Armand Dichosa, Mark Flynn, Cheryl Gleasner, T. Buck Hanson, Andrew Hatch, Julia Kelliher, Earl Middlebrook, Aaron Robinson, Migun, Shakya, Aaron Waller, Brett Youtsey

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: Bioscience

Harnessing Extreme Heterogeneity for Ocean Modeling with Tensors

The project aims to help accelerate LANL’s ocean modeling application, MPAS-Ocean, by using AI accelerators (e.g., Google's TPU) through efficient transformations from discretized operators in ocean modeling to regular tensor operations in the PyTorch programming system. MPAS-Ocean simulates the ocean system, and our target kernel, tracer advection, performs the transport of a tracer quantity (e.g.,~temperature) by the velocity field. In this project, the team will rewrite the tracer advection written in the legacy Fortran language to PyTorch and conduct performance tests.

Mentor: Li Tang

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: CCS-7, Applied Computer Science


Smart Polymer Materials That Heal Themselves

Polymers (aka plastics) are not just for single-use utensils, grocery bags, or packaging materials. Engineered polymers having advanced functionalities are essential materials for next-generation technologies such as soft robotics, smart sensors, and wearable electronics. For prolonged and eco-friendly use of these materials, it is important that the materials can recover from damage to extend their service life and can be easily re-processed to be recycled. In this project, students will conduct hands-on chemistry experiments to make smart polymeric materials that can remember their pre-programmed shapes and recover from cuts and scratches upon near-infrared (NIR) irradiation. This project will introduce students to optical, mechanical, and electrical testing methods to examine the damage recovery properties of the polymer materials. In addition, students will re-process and test the material performance to demonstrate their recyclability.

Mentors: Mihee Kim, Kyungtae Kim

Agency: Los Alamos National Laboratory

Division: MPA-CINT

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