Smoky mountain research

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Each year, thousands of tourists from all over the world visit the Great Smoky Mountains that straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee; however, few have an opportunity to spend 10 weeks there taking part in a new scientific breakthrough! 

During the summer of 2012, MC research student Jasmine Flores and MC Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Pat Nandakumar had just such an opportunity when they participated in a summer research program at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) near Knoxville, Tennessee.

Nandakumar and Flores spent 10 weeks researching ways to extend the lives of high capacity batteries, such as those found in I-phones, IPADs, laptops and hybrid cars.  The two women had the honor of working with Dr. Parans Paranthaman, who is the group leader of the Materials Chemistry Group in the Chemical Sciences Division at ORNL.

The process to be accepted to the summer program was not a simple one—Nandakumar and Flores each had to submit extensive applications detailing their qualifications and previous research projects.

Flores, a 26-year-old Odessa native, said, “When Dr. Nandakumar approached me about the summer internship, I was excited to be offered such an opportunity.  I have never considered research as a career.”

During a telephone interview conducted with Flores while she was at ORNL, she explained, “I am synthesizing materials and characterizing them by using high-tech instruments.   Part of my responsibilities this summer has been to assemble CR2032 coin cells that are being used to experiment with the life extension of lithium ion batteries. I am in a very team-oriented environment and currently collaborating with five scientists. I have not only met world-renowned chemists, but also have met people who are experts in computational science, forensic anthropology and genetics. There are about 500 other interns here representing schools from community colleges like Midland College to research institutions like MIT and Harvard.”

Flores graduated from Odessa High School in 2005 and received two bachelor degrees at Texas Tech University in 2010 in dance and biology.  She attended Midland College during the 2011-2012 school year in order to fulfill prerequisite requirements for a graduate program.  While at MC, she worked with Nandakumar on solar cell research.

Midland College is one of the few community colleges in the nation that have a research component to their science program.

Rebecca Bell

Photo: Pictured from left to right are MC Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Pat Nandakumar, MC research student Jasmine Flores, and ORNL Materials Chemistry Group Leader Dr. Parans Paranthaman.


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