Anne Ruckman has had a never-ending curiosity to learn about the world around her. As a child she enjoyed math class, viewing it as a game where she acquired new techniques to solve challenges. As she grew older, she attended Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) summer camps and participated in youth science labs, so it was no surprise to anyone when she decided to enter a scientific field after high school.
Ruckman, currently earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was part of a materials engineering team at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) that assisted a group focused on carbon capture technology as part of the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship (MLEF) program. The program’s mission is to strengthen and increase the pipeline of diverse future science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM) professionals.
While scanning the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) website, Ruckman came across the MLEF program. This opportunity piqued her interest because it would give her the experience researching at a national lab as well as the unique mentor/mentee relationship inherent to the program.
During Ruckman’s fellowship, she studied using a molecular dynamics software called LAMMPS, simulating carbon dioxide gas diffusion in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). Using this software, Ruckman analyzed the permeability of carbon dioxide molecules. The greater purpose of this research was to calculate carbon dioxide gas diffusion through MOFs for use in separation. According to Ruckman, this separation could be something that effects our everyday lives. She states, “By separating carbon dioxide from flue gas at coal-fired power plants, we can capture carbon dioxide waste and reduce our carbon footprint which allows us to manage the effects of global warming.”
One aspect of the internship that Ruckman specifically enjoyed was the superior mentor/mentee relationship. “It is rare to meet a female computational researcher, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to learn from such a skilled professional. She was able to guide me through the entire research process as well as encourage me to pursue graduate studies,” says Ruckman.
Regarding some of her favorite parts of the program, Ruckman highlights the opportunity to interact and meet fellow MLEF participants, saying that the relationship fostered between graduates and undergraduates with varying perspectives helped to address the inevitable challenges in future research. Highly recommending the program to others, she says that the experience that she gained is invaluable for her career moving forward.
Ruckman hopes to pursue a master’s degree in Engineering Management and followed by a Ph.D in Materials Science Engineering. Her future goals include managing her own manufacturing company as well as starting a non-profit for the advancement of women and minorities in STEM careers.
The MLEF Program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy. ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.