Student utilizes mathematical concepts to examine lithium batteries
When Lee University mathematics major Lindsay Holdman applied for the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) Program, she did not know what to expect.
“Mathematics is the foundation of everything,” she explained. “However, while mathematics can be very black and white, science doesn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. The whole way of thinking about experiments and research was something very new to me and was an awesome way to expand my way of thinking.”
Administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), MLEF expands STEM opportunities for minority and female students through 10-week summer internships. All eligible candidates are encouraged to apply for the program. ORISE is managed by ORAU for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Through the program, Holdman spent her time researching how to improve lithium-ion rechargeable batteries under the guidance of mentor Dr. Ayyakkannu Manivannan at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Specifically, she focused on the ionic conductivity of lithium-ion conducting solid electrolytes to determine the feasibility of their use in rechargeable batteries. Using a process called the Pechini method; she synthesized homogeneous multicomponent metal oxide materials that make up the electrolytes to examine their lithium ionic conductivities. Studying these solid electrolytes, Holdman noted, has attracted much attention from researchers due to its relatively high conductivity, stability and reliability.
Holdman found that her mathematics background readily applied to the research opportunity.
“I had never really thought about doing an internship. My focus was more on finishing up my current degree and moving directly into graduate school,” she said. “But when I heard about this opportunity, I just couldn’t seem to get it off my mind. It seemed a perfect fit and an amazing experience that I would be crazy to pass up. Sure enough, this has been one of the best opportunities to come my way.”
She also found that she could learn much from the other scientists and students in the program.
“I am the youngest intern in our group, and many of the other students in the group are well on their way to completing their doctoral degrees. Their knowledge and experience, as well as that of my mentor and other professional colleagues, have been amazing to watch and learn from,” said Holdman. “I wish every college student could have this experience.”
“The knowledge, friendships and personal growth I have gained in these 10 weeks are something I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life and career,” she continued. “Although you are assigned a research topic, you are given the freedom and responsibility of using your own knowledge and creativity to expand and further your research. By doing this, it has allowed me to become invested and excited about my research.”