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Meet a Participant: Jinghao Liu

Doctoral student aims to separate oxygen from air

Jinghao Liu

Jinghao Liu researched methods at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to improve the efficiency and availability of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), devices used to generate electricity.

With the ongoing rise in global temperatures, the nation’s focus has shifted toward identifying clean methods of producing electricity. Many researchers have developed an interest in solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), devices that generate electricity from a chemical reaction with little pollution.

Among those researching this alternative energy source is Jinghao Liu, a master’s student studying statistics at Baruch College. Liu participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) Program and spent her summer researching methods to optimize SOFC efficiency.

Collaborating with her mentors, Vyacheslav Romanov and Giuseppe Brunello at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Liu solved a set of equations using the R program, a programming language used frequently for statistics and data analysis. Next, she used generated synthetic data to obtain the posterior probability distributions of the parameters. She obtained the posterior distributions using the principles of Bayesian statistics.

“My research could improve an understanding of SOFC that could potentially optimize efficiency at a lower cost,” Liu said. “Ultimately, people in differing areas of the country would have an easier and cheaper way to access energy produced by SOFC.”

Liu applied for the program hoping that research in a national laboratory setting would provide guidance for her future beyond her master’s education. The opportunity solidified her desire to obtain a doctoral degree in statistics.

“I had the freedom to learn and solve a problem on my own. My mentors presented applicable science research problems that challenged me to constantly ‘think outside of the box’,” Liu said. “I also enjoyed meeting and interacting with my peers and hearing about their projects.”

After her summer research project, Liu returned to Baruch College to complete her master’s degree in statistics. Prior to her participation in the program, she aspired to become a professor in statistics and share her knowledge with others. While these goals still exist, her involvement with the MLEF Program introduced her to a broader spectrum of possibilities within her field, including continuing research with DOE.

“Through this program, I enhanced my programming skills and furthered my interest in Bayesian statistics,” Liu said. “Yet perhaps more importantly, I strengthened my ability to positively communicate and interact with my peers. These are lifelong skills that I will apply to my Ph.D. studies, future career and any other situation I encounter.”

The MLEF Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.