Drexel Engineering: Finding My Passion for Research Through Experiential Learning
October 14, 2021
Our guest blogger for the post below is Marley Downes, a Drexel student pursuing a bachelor's/master's dual degree in materials science and engineering.
One of the most rewarding things about my time so far at Drexel has been the chance to work in the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Lab. I started there as a STAR Scholar at the beginning of my second year and am now on co-op as a full-time research assistant studying the potential of MXenes in lithium-sulfur batteries.
MXenes are a family of 2D transition metal carbides, carbonitrides, and nitrides that were discovered in 2011 at Drexel. Combining the properties of metals and ceramics, MXenes are a rapidly growing field of research with applications ranging from EMI shielding to antibacterial agents to batteries, the field in which my work lies.
Working hands-on like this has helped me develop my expertise within my field and working in a diverse lab like the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute has exposed me to many ways of thinking and many fields of science I did not even know existed!
For the past year, I have been working with my mentor, a PhD student named Geetha, and the College of Engineering's world-famous professor Yury Gogotsi to determine which MXene would be best for use in a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery based on the MXenes' ability to adsorb polysulfides. A major issue with Li-S batteries is that polysulfides can form unwanted connections between the battery's anode and cathode. This can short-circuit the battery and vastly decrease cycle life, preventing the battery from performing to its full potential. We hope to use MXene to stop this process, increasing the conductivity of the battery and improving the overall performance of the cell.
I owe a lot of thanks to my mentor Geetha because she is the one who taught me everything I know about how to be a good researcher and scientist. A year ago, I didn't even know that Li-S batteries existed; now, I am working on cutting-edge research to improve the performance of the batteries.
Working hands-on like this has helped me develop my expertise within my field and working in a diverse lab like the A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute has exposed me to many ways of thinking and many fields of science I did not even know existed! After co-op, I will be broadening my research experience by switching focuses to working to create new MAX phases, the precursor to MXenes. By exploring new MAX phases, I hope to broaden the network of existing MXenes, leading to exciting new materials, properties, and applications.
The knowledge I have collected over my STAR experience and co-op will assist me greatly in my classes, giving me great insight into the inner workings of materials. Being on co-op like this has really immersed me into the experience of being a scientist. I am a valued team member in the lab, consulted by my colleagues for knowledge and advice. I feel as though this style of experiential learning has broadened my understanding of how to be an independent thinker and I am very grateful for how it has set me upon my journey.