This week, we were required to attend a campus seminar in the STEM field. This task was fairly intimidating being a first-year who hasn’t even declared their major yet. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to understand everything the speaker said, or what kind of seminar I would even find interesting. Luckily there were many seminars to choose from and I ended up going to one hosted by OSU’s Chemistry Department titled, “Scalable Multifunctional Nano-architectures for Energy Storage”. Because it was intimidating, I decided to go with one of my friends to make me more comfortable. I was a little nervous, but I was also excited to see how much of an advanced topic I would be able to comprehend.
The seminar wasn’t too far away so we got there with plenty of time before it started. There were more people than I had expected, and we were certainly the only undergraduates in the audience. Although we felt a little bit out of place, we weren’t leaving until we learned everything we could about scalable multifunctional nano-architectures for energy storage. The speaker, Debra Rolison, was introduced by a younger researcher who described her many feats. Among many other achievements including prestigious awards and honors, Rolison got her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently the head of the Advanced Electrochemical Materials section at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. She started off her talk in a very casual manner, speaking in a way that made us feel very comfortable about the information she was about to present. She also started off the presentation itself in a way that almost eased us into the more “research-heavy information”. This really helped me focus and stay attentive to the presentation.
The information that Rolison presented on was fairly advanced, and I won’t lie, I didn’t understand most of it. Despite this, I did understand the big-picture of the talk, and I did come away with more information than I came in with. The premise of the talk was developing a new type of battery to replace the dangerous lithium-ion batteries that can be found in cars, our cellphones, and many other devices. At the Naval Reseach Laboratory, Rolison and her team have changed the normal style of battery to make it more energy-efficient, cheaper, and safer. They have done this by developing a sponge-like material with pores inside. The anode material and the cathode material are formed into the pores in a way where the reaction has the most amount of contact points, making it much more effective than the standard. She also described the difference between many materials used to create batteries such as nickel, argon, lithium, silver, and the suggested material, zinc. Overall, it seems like Rolison’s team is on the path to successfully banning lithium-ion batteries for good.
I found the information that was presented very interesting. Although much of the theory and research behind the main points were unfamiliar to me, I was still able to get something out of this seminar. I think that I will also be attending more of these seminars in the near future. As undergraduates, it seems productive to involve ourselves in things that are more advanced such as these seminars. There are always new things to learn, and new connections to be made.