This summer was the second time I did research with the SUPER program, and I felt a lot more confident about it because I learned a lot from the previous year. Fortunately, I was able to do research in a very similar field to that of last year – renewable energy integration into the grid. For this year, I knew I was going to be working on a model that has very detailed information about the generation, transmission, and load data throughout the United States, and some parts of Canada and Mexico. I expected research this year to be a lot “smoother” in the sense that I would face less challenges than my first time doing research. Also, since it was online, I expected much less of a community than the one I felt last year from all the lunches and trips we had in person.
My expectations were quite off. First of all, the online experience was amazing. Thanks to the hard work and effort put in by the organizers Sarah and John, the presence of the research community was stronger than ever. We often discussed energy-related topics in our weekly meetings on Tuesdays, and those discussions were often challenging and difficult. We often realized that there is a lot of work to be done in the energy related fields. In talking about these difficult topics, I feel that a strong sense of community and trust was built because it is usually not easy to talk about such difficult topics, but was made possible by everybody’s honesty and opinions.
Second of all, I realized that research was rarely “smooth”. Especially in the beginning, I had a lot of trouble trying to run the model, and also further down there was a lot of problem solving and investigations that I had to do so answer my research question. However, this summer, I did not feel that these series of challenges were negative. With the help of my mentor, his PhD student, and a contact in NREL, slowly but surely, most of the problems I encountered were solved, and I felt motivated through discussing and solving the problems with them. I also knew that the problems were worth solving because I was truly interested in my research question. Therefore, although the research process was not “smooth,” it was very fun and engaging and gave me a new perspective on research.
This summer’s research experience has made me more interested in research, and I have actually decided to continue research for this fall. Also, I became much more interested and excited about the renewable energy field and would definitely like to continue working in related fields.