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Summer Undergraduate Program on Energy Research

The Precourt Institute for Energy's Summer Undergraduate Program on Energy Research (SUPER) internships provide undergraduates with opportunities to work on faculty-mentored, individualized energy research during the summer. Undergraduates delve deeply into one energy topic, while also learning about energy research across Stanford University. The program is designed to inspire students to consider energy as a field of study at Stanford and to prepare them to engage as professionals in solving this real world challenge.

2020 Program Features:

  • Conduct energy research on campus under the guidance of faculty and other experts
  • Stipend of $7,500 for a 10-week summer term, beginning on Monday, June 22nd and ending on Friday, August 28th
  • Weekly seminar showcasing a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary energy research. Faculty will present their research as well as personal stories about how they decided to pursue research in energy
  • Field trips to energy companies
  • Opportunities to connect with other undergraduates conducting research on-campus research through our sister programs: Stanford Earth Summer Undergraduate Research (SESUR), Mentoring Undergraduates in Interdisciplinary Research (MUIR), and Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE)
  • Students present results during fall term at the university's Symposia of Undergraduate Research and Public Service

Eligible students must be a Stanford undergraduate enrolled in the 2020-21 calendar year. Participants funded by the program are required to:

  • Enroll in ESS108: Research Preparation for Undergraduates, taught by Chris Field or similar research preparatory course during spring term 2020
  • Undertake a research project over the summer term
  • Write a blog post during the summer about their research
  • Meet with their faculty advisor weekly (every other week at a minimum). Postdoctoral fellows or advanced graduate students may serve as Energy Research Mentors
  • Complete an on-line questionnaire on the SUPER experience
  • Complete a research summary
  • Present their research at a poster presentation in the fall
  • Meet at least every other week with the undergraduate researcher to advise and adjust the work plan. In addition to faculty mentorship, postdoctoral fellows or advanced graduate students may serve as Energy Research Mentors and meet more frequently with the student
  • Actively include the undergraduate in your lab or research community
  • Join a group lunch with the faculty director and members of the oversight team to discuss the programs, goals and ideas
  • Participate by giving a talk in the summer lunch, if invited
  • Attend the mid-summer dinner, if possible
  • Complete an on-line questionnaire on the SUPER experience

2020 projects will include:

Nicole Ardoin, Education
We are working on a study to (1) define and operationalize community-scale environmental, energy, and climate literacy; (2) review literature in related fields such as that on collective-scale literacies and measures in health, international development, and science education; and (3) test measures to assess community-scale energy and climate literacies, and related behaviors, in up to three communities. We seek a student research assistant to work with us this summer, most likely on part #3, wherein we will be pilot testing some of the potential approaches, which may include community-based interviews, surveys, participatory mapping, and social network analyses. The RA will have the opportunity to learn about and implement various data collection approaches, as well as learn to systematically analyze quantitative and qualitative data.

Zhenan Bao, Chemical Engineering
Electronic materials and batteries

Stacey Bent, Chemical Engineering
Nanoscale Coatings for Lithium ion Battery Application

Increasing energy demands and depleting fossil-fuel resources require the advancement in renewable energy sources and sustainable storage technologies. Li-ion batteries (LIBs) are the most employed energy storage system for portable electronic devices and electronic vehicles. In general, higher energy density, faster charging and safer LIBs are important for achieving larger penetration of LIBs in energy technologies. One challenge that hinders the development of such LIBs is the use of graphite as the anode in LIBs. An active research area in trying to overcome these challenges is replacing the graphite anode with a Si anode, which has much higher capacity (~3500 mAh/g at room temperature vs ~372 mAh/g for graphite). However, the major challenge Si anodes suffer from is a large volume expansion during lithiation. Unfortunately, this volume expansion causes a cracking of the solid-electrolyte interface (SEI) and gradual Li ion consumption resulting in irreversible capacity loss and performance degradation in the LIBs. Coating Si anodes with a protective layer may prevent parasitic reactions, stabilize the electrode-electrolyte interface and improve the mechanical properties of the electrodes. The electrode coating materials should be Li-ion conducting, electrically insulating, thin and conformal. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a promising coating technique in this regard, as it relies upon sequential self-limiting surface reactions to grow thin, conformal, and pinhole-free films with precise thickness control.

The goal of this summer project is to develop novel organic-inorganic hybrid (OIH) materials for coating of LIBs electrodes using ALD. The new hybrid thin films will be designed to stabilize the surface of a Si anode against electrolyte decomposition and to resolve Li loss in the electrolyte during cycling, thus allowing this higher capacity material to replace graphite. In this project, the student will acquire expertise on ALD from Professor Stacey Bent‘s group and use the technique to deposit the hybrid thin films with controlled composition and thickness and determine the ideal deposition conditions. Then the student will characterize the thin films and apply the deposition on Si anodes. Battery life cycle and coulombic efficiency will be tested for understanding the effect of coatings on the electrodes.

Matteo Cargnello, Chemical Engineering
Synthesis, characterization and performance evaluation of catalytic materials for energy and environmental applications. Reactions of interest are: CO2 conversion to fuels and chemicals; hydrocarbon combustion for emission control catalysis; nitrogen electroreduction to fertilizers; production of hydrogen through sustainable processes.

Snehashis Choudhury, Chemical Engineering
Advancement in energy storage technologies is imperative owing to the growing demand for portable consumer electronics. In this regard, metal-based batteries comprising of a lithium anode have gained significant attention because of their promise of improving the anode-specific capacity by 10-fold compared to the current state-of-art Li-ion battery using graphitic anode. However, in these metal batteries, the issue of sudden short-circuits by dendrite growth as well as rapid fade in battery capacity due to internal side reactions limit their practical usage. There have been several studies in the literature dedicated to the prevention of dendrite growth by means of a high modulus physical barrier. However, electrolytes/separators with high mechanical strength tend to have low ionic conductivity, thus limiting their practical use.

It is currently understood that viscoelastic polymeric interfaces are effective in stable deposition of metallic lithium as they can structurally rearrange to accommodate the volume expansion and contraction during battery operation. However, very little is known about the working mechanism and the relation between the polymer relaxation and the growth of ramified deposits. The goal of the summer project is to fundamentally understand this structure-property relationship. Specifically, a series of different supramolecular polymers will be designed comprising of various content of non-covalent interactions and polymer entanglements using co-polymerization of PDMS soft block and a hard urethane block. The effect of these parameters will be evaluated using electron microscopy, dielectric spectroscopy and mechanical analysis, in addition to evaluating their performance in a metal battery. The summer student will gain experience in functional polymer synthesis as well as physical and chemical characterizations like rheology and NMR. Additionally, the summer student will learn to design a lithium battery and its electrochemical analysis. Overall, the project is aimed at providing useful expertise in the fields of polymer science and electrochemistry.

Siegfried Glenzer, Photon Science (SLAC)
Towards improving high-energy density cathode materials for lithium ion batteries

Cobalt containing oxides are the dominant cathode materials for cell phone batteries on the market today. However, cobalt is a problematic constituent because in addition to being environmentally harmful there is a humanitarian cost to its production.  A recent report by Amnesty International raises significant concerns over health, welfare and safety of cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the principal producer of the element.  Concerns are also raised about widespread use of child labor, human rights abuses and lack of transparency in the supply chain. In this summer project, we will explore a new way to develop better lithium ion battery cathode materials with a view to exploring higher capacity cathode oxide materials which replace, or better utilize, problematic elements.  By using high pressure, the increase of the proportion of intercalated lithium will be measured and the structural changes in the host oxide lattice will be observed as a guide to future synthesis strategies.

Rob Jackson, Earth System Science
This project involves testing homes for natural gas emissions from residential appliances. Previously, homes have rarely been quantified for their contribution to large-scale methane emission inventories, so this project will focus on systematically measuring total house methane emissions. We plan to test homes using a duct blaster and a Picarro cavity-ring down spectrometer, and will measure the emissions from the home with the appliances both on and off.

The student’s project will focus on gaining an understanding of the distribution of housing in California and understanding the natural gas usage patterns. Having a good understanding of the number gas appliances in homes of the state and usage patterns is essential to accurately scale our individual-home sample to the contribution of homes to the state’s methane budget. The student can work on developing and deploying loggers to measure the appliances' usage. In addition to this independent project, the student will be able to participate in lab testing and field work on measuring methane emissions.

Mark Z. Jacobson, Civil and Environmental Engineering
This project involves the development of 100% clean, renewable energy (Green New Deal) roadmaps for dozens of cities worldwide. It involves examining the current and projected future energy demand among all energy sectors in each city; transforming future energy demand to clean, renewable energy demand; quantifying the clean, renewable generators needed; quantifying the land and rooftop requirements; and quantifying the costs, health cost benefits, and climate cost benefits of the transition.

Jon Krosnick, Communication and Political Science
For more than a decade, my team has been studying what the American public thinks about climate change. And in numerous surveys, we have found that the vast majority of Americans are on the "green" side of the issue. But other survey organizations have been doing surveys of Americans and the same time, asking differently worded questions, and producing different findings regarding the distributions of opinions and patterns of opinion change over time.  This summer, the students working with me will work together to gather up all of this evidence and conduct a statistical meta-analysis to make sense of the apparent inconsistencies and write a report for general distribution with the goal of harmonizing approaches across survey organizations in order to provide more coherent evidence to policy-makers about Americans views of energy, resources, climate impact, and related topics.

Simona Onori, Energy Resources Engineering
Study, Analysis, and Implementation of Electrochemical Aging Models for Li-ion Batteries

Lithium-ion battery applications, such as EV and renewable grid systems, require long battery life. However, capacity fade always occurs due to unwanted side reactions, including lithium deposition and formation of the Solid-Electrolyte Interphase (SEI) layer at the negative electrode. Modeling and simulation of capacity fade phenomena can help understand and predict battery behavior, thereby maximizing the battery performance. For this reason, different capacity fade models have been proposed in the literature.
In this project, students will implement the lithium-plating and SEI layer phenomena in a computational framework of physics-based Li-ion battery models provided by the Stanford Energy Control Lab. First, students will have experience with studying fundamental electrochemical theories through capacity fade phenomena. Next, students will computationally implement the capacity fade models in physics-based models. Lastly, students will learn how aging phenomena can affect battery performance. Through this project, both the learning of fundamentals and the adoption of practical career-based education will be pursued at the same time. Students will learn the latest trends by linking the fundamental electrochemical theories and computational coding.

Stefan Reichelstein, Graduate School of Business
Modeling the integration of renewable energy and storage -- both battery and hydrogen storage -- so as to ensure economical and stable grid operations. This project has both modeling and computational challenges.

Thomas Robinson, School of Medicine
Over the summer of 2020 we are working on an energy data visualization and data thinking research project. We enroll middle school youth in a program to learn to “visualize” their utility energy smart meter data and their energy activities using an American version of the JoyMeter time use app. Youth create the data set and visualize their electricity data and energy activities using the software Tableau. Stanford and other students working on the project teach and help develop and refine animation and other video and software materials to teach data visualization (information visualization using drawing & software-based visualization), behavioral theory and techniques applied to energy reductions, and prototype materials for an Energy Behavior Change Portfolio (an outcome of the project). Students and Project staff will examine participant changes in both self-reported behavior change and direct measures of electricity consumption.

John Weyant, Management Science and Engineering
Apply advanced diagnostics and uncertainty methods to popular integrated assessment models - Nordhaus DICE and JGCRI GCAM. We will initially focus on energy efficiency and renewables (especially biofuels) technologies but may incorporate Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) into our analysis using last year's major NAS committee review of NETs.  


2019 projects included:

2018 projects included:

  • Examining Digestibility of Phosphoethanolamine Cellulose for Cellulosic Ethanol
  • Low Cost, Clean Energy Produce Dryer for Use in Rural Indian Farming Communities
  • Synthesis of Colloidal Silver Nanoparticles and Their Catalytic Potential in the Conversion of Propylene to Propylene Oxide
  • Designing the Know Your Energy Numbers Program
  • Watching the Flag: Training a Neural Network to Predict Wind Speeds
  • Global Warming Survey Methodology
  • Unlocking Google’s Street-level Visual Data
  • Detecting Natural Gas Leaks in Bay Area Homes and Quantifying Leakage From Natural Gas Water Heaters
  • Fabricating Stretchable Batteries Using Ion-Conducting Elastomers (ICE)
  • Limiting Voltage Violations in an Electrical Network with Distributed Energy Resources

Faculty applications for SUPER 2020 are open now and due by January 12.

Student applications for SUPER 2020 are due by February 9.

Please note that students who participate in SUPER must enroll in a research course during Spring Quarter. Student applications are available here. For the application, be ready to provide:

  • Your name
  • Your Stanford email address
  • Your major and graduation year
  • Your area(s) of interest. A list of suggestions is available for selection, and you can also write in your own ideas.
  • One paragraph (or more) about why you are interested in SUPER
  • Your resumé (as an attachment)
  • (Optional) Description of a project you would like to complete

Faculty applications are available here. Please be ready to provide:

  • Your name
  • Your Stanford email address
  • If you have a mentee in mind, their name and email
  • If you want us to suggest mentees to you, list what qualifications you would like them to have
  • Your project's area of interest. A list of suggestions is available for selection, and you can also write in your own.
  • One paragraph describing your project

Please contact Sarah Weaver ( with any questions. 

Who is eligible?

Stanford undergraduates enrolled in the 2019-2020 year are eligible for the summer 2019 SUPER program. 

Am I eligible if I am currently performing research with a faculty advisor?

Yes. Pre-existing undergraduate researchers may apply and research may proceed after SUPER concludes, however, the financial support from SUPER is fixed for the summer term.

Can I apply if I have not identified a faculty advisor or undergraduate researcher?

Yes. We can help align pairs between interested faculty and undergraduates. To ensure an appropriate match, please provide as many specifics on your interests or details on the research project as possible.

What type of research does SUPER support?

SUPER supports energy-related research within any of the seven schools at Stanford.

What are the selection criteria?

The projects must be related to energy and achievable on-campus. We are primarily interested in strong student-faculty pairs.

When will I be notified of my funding status?

Students and faculty will be notified of their funding status prior to spring break.

May a faculty member mentor 2 or more SUPER interns?

Depending on enrollment in the SUPER program and available funding, there is a chance that a faculty mentor may mentor more than 1 intern. This is not guaranteed, however.

What's the timeline for the application process?

The following are key dates for applying to SUPER:

Last week of January -- Information session

February 9, 11:59pm -- Deadline for faculty and student applications

February 17-21 -- Possible interviews between faculty and students

Last week of February -- Initial offers sent out