THINK

RESEARCHING RENEWABLE ENERGY

Chemistry major Cecilia Gentle landed a prestigious honor from the American Chemical Society, one of just 17 students in the country to receive the International Research Experience for Undergraduates Scholarship.

“It was in the exact field of chemistry that I’m interested in — inorganic materials chemistry with an emphasis on energy applications,” she says. Next, she spent 10 weeks at Italy’s University of Perugia making quantum dots — tiny nano-crystals composed of semiconductors — and studying how to make them more efficient solar cells.

“Most solar cells are made using silicon, which has to be turned into perfect crystals, so it’s incredibly expensive to produce.” Her work entailed using compounds such as cadmium and selenium to form quantum dots.

I HAVE A TECHNICAL FASCINATION WITH CHEMISTRY AND MAKING SENSE OF BIG IDEAS THAT INITIALLY MYSTIFY ME. BUT THERE’S ALSO A CHILDHOOD WONDER TO THIS.

After returning home from Italy, Cecilia presented her work at the American Chemical Society national conference.

Research like Cecilia's has the potential to be an energy game-changer, specifically in the cost and efficiency of solar cells. “We’re all working to make energy more efficient and renewable,” Cecilia says. “The outcomes of all this research could help alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels.”

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