This International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) award is made to Professors Jacob Jones and Juan Nino in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The 15 participating U.S. undergraduate students will collaborate for 10 weeks each year over a period of three years with researchers in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia. Their foreign collaborators at the School are Professor Mark Hoffman and his colleagues at the many labs within the School. The proposed program will educate and train the undergraduate students on topics related to materials for energy technologies. Energy production, storage, conversion, and efficiency are key strategic areas for the U.S. and the World. Examples of the areas the students will be involved in include thermoelectric materials for thermal energy conversion, piezoelectrics for energy transduction, metal hydrides and battery materials for energy storage, and lightweight metals for energy efficiency. The student?s individual projects will reinforce personal responsibility while the group experience is fostered by the overall research theme. The proposed work will develop human capital in the sustainable energy sector and will engage international collaboration to promote progress on sustainable energy solutions.

There is sufficient overlap of interests between researchers in the U.S and Australia to indicate that they can successfully pursue the activities proposed, and that the interaction will benefit both sides. The University of New South Wales is one of Australia?s leading research and teaching institutions and consistently ranks high in international university rankings. The students will also have use of the neutron diffraction instruments available at the nearby Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). This IRES project will provide the students with additional academic and cultural experiences, and also promote teaching, training, and learning. It is anticipated that the students will maintain contact with the Australian collaborators for additional research projects in the future. Underrepresented groups will be included when the selection of students is made each year.

Project Report

This International Research Experiences for Students project provided meaningful research experiences for 15 US undergraduate students in an international setting, enabling them to become globally-engaged participants in science and engineering. The program supported five US undergraduate students to undertake research and training experiences at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, for 10 weeks each year. Students were trained and educated prior to departure in the areas of academics, research, logistics, and culture. Students participated in individual research projects related to the topic Materials for Energy Technologies in a research laboratory at UNSW and under the mentorship of an Australian academic. Some examples of projects undertaken by students include evaluation of thermoelectric materials for converting heat to electricity, synthesis and properties of piezoelectrics for converting mechanical vibrational energy to electricity, development of lightweight metals for energy efficient vehicles, and characterization of materials that convert magnetic and electrical energy. In addition to the 15 US students who participated in this research and training experience, approximately 1000 other students were made aware of this activity through dissemination of the information about the program. The students gave over 7 presentations at conferences after their return to the U.S. and authored and co-authored 4 peer-reviewed manuscripts on topics related to their research projects. The project had a measurably strong impact on the students pursuing a subsequent degree in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discipline.

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University of Florida
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