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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. 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.

2021 Program Features:

  • Program available both spring and summer for students taking their flex quarter
  • Stipend to support student researchers; exact amount varies by financial need and project demands.
  • On-campus research, if safety allows, will be available only to the class years designated for the given quarter
    • Spring: juniors & seniors
    • Summer: freshmen & sophomores
  • In order to conduct on-campus research, students must live on campus.
  • Virtual options will be available both quarters
  • Weekly virtual seminar showcasing a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary energy research and discussing current energy news. Faculty will present their research as well as personal stories about how they decided to pursue research in energy.
  • 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 who will be enrolled in the 2021-22 academic year. Participants funded by the program are required to:

  • Undertake a research project during spring or summer terms
  • Write a blog post during their 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 online questionnaire on the SUPER experience
  • Complete a research summary
  • Present their research at a poster presentation
  • 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
  • Participate by giving a talk at a lunchtime seminar, if invited
  • Complete an online questionnaire on the SUPER experience

2021 projects include:

Nicole Ardoin, Education
Issues such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic emphasize the complexity and interconnectedness of society, particularly the ways in which collective action is required for effective solutions to such issues. In this project, we seek to understand how to define, foster, and measure collective environmental literacy in support of community action to address energy-related issues. Currently, we are developing instruments to measure collective environmental literacy and will begin pilot testing measures in early 2021, with data collection and analysis continuing into summer. The project for which we are seeking undergraduate collaborators is the logical next step for this work. Working as part of research team, the student will identify a community of interest involved in an energy-related issue (e.g., an organization working to increase energy efficiency, a community exploring alternative energy sources). The student will administer a survey instrument and conduct interviews to measure and explore collective environmental literacy as it relates to energy and energy use. Analysis of the data will help determine the efficacy of the measures and help pinpoint how communities build collective competencies and take collective actions to address energy issues.

Sally Benson, Energy Resources Engineering
California leads the nation and much of the world in policies to mitigate climate change.  We are doing a study to assess how to get California to net-zero by 2045.  We are looking at the different large emitting sectors (industry, transportation, electricity, buildings) and looking at what technologies can be utilized and at what cost.  We are also looking at the role of decarbonized fuels (hydrogen and biofuels) and working lands in achieving carbon neutrality.  We are looking for a student that can work with the current graduate student team as we progress work on this project.  The work will be highly collaborative (all virtual) and data driven.  Depending on the student selected we may pair them with the individuals working in any of the areas listed above.

David Fedor, Hoover Institution
Energy and climate policy writing projects

Wendy Gu, Mechanical Engineering
Hydrogen is a promising candidate for zero greenhouse-gas emission vehicles and is uniquely positioned to decarbonize heat in existing gas-based infrastructures. However, successful implementation of a hydrogen economy requires the transmission of hydrogen from reforming plants to consumers. The most cost-effective method for transporting hydrogen utilizes existing transmission pipelines. These pipelines, often made from low-carbon steels, are susceptible to a phenomenon known as hydrogen embrittlement. Hydrogen embrittlement is the premature and unpredictable failure of structural materials that have been exposed to hydrogen rich environments. It is a pervasive and detrimental problem to the safe and timely conversion to hydrogen.

Despite over 100 years of research, the precise mechanisms of hydrogen embrittlement are still unclear. This in-person research project aims to elucidate hydrogen embrittlement mechanisms in structural steels through mesoscale and nanoscale mechanical characterization techniques. Primarily, in-situ nanoindentation techniques will be coupled with strain mapping and microstructural characterization to craft a wholistic understanding of embrittlement mechanisms. This project has a strong emphasis on technique development and identifying qualitative trends of material behavior in hydrogen environments.

Jon Krosnick, Communication and Political Science
For 25 years, the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford has been studying American public opinion on climate change, with a special interest in the economic side of policy-making.  Details are at climatepublicopinion.stanford.edu.  In a new survey conducted in 2020 (and covered in more than 100 news media outlets worldwide), we asked a wide array of new questions tapping Americans' preferences regarding emissions-reduction policies of various types.  Our project will involve analysis of those survey data to yield peer review publications.

Simona Onori, Energy Resources Engineering
Modeling Lithium Ion batteries for grid storage

Ram Rajagopal, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Over Spring and Summer, 2021 our Sustainable Systems lab aims to improve energy data thinking through the development of a suite of tools (a course, Tableau plug-ins/extensions and database) designed to facilitate remote learning about energy data analytics for middle and high school youth. Built on data science results from Stanford’s Energy Visualization and Insight System for Demand Operations and Management (VISDOM), we have already designed a 6-module remote learning course based on current theory of best pedagogical practice to support family behavior change around home energy usage.

The first project is related to pilot deployment of an online energy saving program titled “Designing Your Energy Lifestyle: Data Thinking – Data Visualization.” During the program youth learn to visualize their own smart meter data according to key energy concepts using the visualization software, Tableau, build, implement, and evaluate a change plan, and to present their portfolio of work to a jury of “energy experts,” data scientists, and educators.

The SUPER student will work with our team on the theoretical, methodological, and statistical aspects of energy reduction programs. Depending on the stage of current planned pilot deployments, the SUPER student will be involved in actual program delivery, deployment of an IRB approved research project with youth and their families, collection and/or analysis of qualitative interview data, analysis of interim evaluation of student materials, and survey data collected to evaluate the program. Finally, we aim to collect one year of smart meter electricity data to evaluate impact. SUPER student learning and work will be supported by relevant research readings, team discussions of recent research as well as current deployment and data collection, and individual weekly meetings with project director – Dr. June Flora. This program is available for a Spring and/or a Summer SUPER fellowship student.

In the second project, the SUPER student will work with other computer science and engineering students, graduate students, and faculty at Stanford and at Oregon State University to further develop Tableau’s ability to visualize time series data - electricity data.  These plug-ins/extensions will include statistics and algorithms specific to the analysis of smart-metered household electricity data and based on energy data analytics tools developed as part of the VISDOM platform and the remote learning course. Specifically, these plug-ins/extensions will allow users to more easily: (1) clean, process and ingest smart-metered energy data into Tableau; (2) incorporate weather and activity data into their analyses; (3) produce basic summaries and analyses of their electricity usage; (4) calculate household carbon emissions based on their electricity usage; (4) keep track of their work in Tableau; (5) export visualizations to PowerPoint, pdf, or other external reports; and (6) calculate impacts of new rate polices and build longer-term forecasts. The SUPER student should have some skill in Python and/or JavaScript, the iterative process of building tools that will work with existing infrastructure, and an interest in learning more about data science and data visualization scholarship and research. We also would expect the SUPER student to have an interest in learning about hourly energy data science and visualization.

Stefan Reichelstein, Graduate School of Business

This project tries to model 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.

Mark Zoback, Geophysics

Stanford has launched a comprehensive assessment of the technical and business potential for zero-carbon Hydrogen generation from natural gas with carbon capture and onsite geologic storage in California.   We are looking for a student that is interested in helping us to scope and highgrade potential CO2 storage sites in the state.  This will involve reviewing USGS data, public well log data, published papers, state geological survey data, and other public databases.   We will look for data that will help us to better understand the following reservoir characteristics of the depleted gas fields and saline reservoirs:

  • Compartmentalization, closure type, and trapping mechanism
  • Reservoir properties including permeability, porosity, in situ pressure
  • Top/bottom seal properties including capillary entry pressure, vertical permeability, clay content and fracturing
  • Nature and magnitude of any faults and fractures
  • Reservoir depletion history and status/condition of existing wells

Once this data is assembled, we will score and high-grade these potential sites in order to narrow down the opportunities.    Project will be collaborative with significant interaction with other students and researchers.

2020 projects included:

 

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 2021 are open now.

Student applications for SUPER 2021 are due by midnight on February 7.

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 (sarah.weaver@stanford.edu) 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