Amalie Atassi has always been driven by a desire to understand what she calls “the convoluted truths of the universe.” As a child, that innate curiosity led her to ask a multitude of questions about the natural world, and she recalls feeling a sense of satisfaction when she found answers in her studies.
Her inquisitive nature followed her to the University of Florida, where an undergraduate course inspired her to major in materials science and engineering, an interdisciplinary field that explores the structure, properties and performance of matter.
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Atassi gained hands-on experience in materials science research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory through an internship with the GEM Fellowship Program.
Under the guidance of Raphael Hermann, Ph.D., a researcher in the Scattering and Thermophysics Group within ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, Atassi helped with efforts to investigate the lattice dynamics for the rutile phase of titanium dioxide. Lattice dynamics is the study of the vibrations of the atoms in a crystal. By studying the atomic vibrations of this phase of titanium dioxide, Atassi explained, researchers can get a better picture of why materials behave as they do and begin to understand the lattice dynamics for materials with similar structures.
To learn more about the structure and properties of the rutile phase, ORNL scientists use a technique known as neutron scattering. Because neutrons have no electrical charge, they can easily and safely pass through a sample material, revealing information about where atoms are and how they move in a material. During her appointment, Atassi dissected a four-dimensional dataset gleaned from these neutron scattering experiments and wrote code to extract valuable information on the lattice dynamics of the material.
“My experience was wonderful. I would definitely recommend interning at ORNL to anyone. The people here are welcoming, eager to teach and extremely helpful.”
Through her GEM internship, Atassi not only learned more about the concepts of lattice dynamics and neutron scattering, but she also improved her science communication skills, expanded her professional network and gained valuable coding experience.
“My experience was wonderful,” Atassi said. “I would definitely recommend interning at ORNL to anyone. The people here are welcoming, eager to teach and extremely helpful.”
After her internship, Atassi will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she intends to pursue a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering.
The GEM Fellowship Program is a partnership between the National GEM Consortium and ORNL. The National GEM Consortium is a network of leading corporations, research institutions and universities that enables qualified students from underrepresented communities to pursue graduate education in STEM fields. The program at ORNL is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy.