After years of participation in Science Olympiad and STEM-based activities at Kellenberg Memorial, senior Aidan York took his dedication and passion for science to new heights through his participation in the Garcia Summer Research Program from July to August 2019. The Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces is Stony Brook University’s research center for materials science, with the program focusing heavily on chemical and mechanical engineering of polymers. Hundreds of young high school scientists from all over the world compete for one of under one hundred available spots.
One of 90 program participants, Aidan arrived at Stony Brook University on July 3, fewer than 24 hours after returning from his summer mission project in Lourdes, France. He quickly became immersed in the program, beginning with fundamentals like lab safety rules, he soon focused in on a specifically chosen project. Projects available to high school students included hydrogen fuel cell technology, dental pulp stem cell research, flame retardant synthesis, and improvement, DNA chip technology, bioprinting, and renewable energy and energy storage through supercapacitors. With each project being spearheaded by graduate students, who serve as mentors to high school researchers, the research possibilities were practically limitless for program participants.
Aidan and his partner Jasmine of Fairview High School in Colorado concentrated their research into solar cell technology. With much of the market for solar cells today based on expensive silicon cells, an emerging alternative to this is a material known as perovskite, methylammonium lead iodide. Perovskite-based solar cells are not without their flaws, however, as intense light or heat, or any moisture will lead to degradation of the material. Aidan and Jasmine’s research looked to correct that, by experimenting with a new method of perovskite formation known as “hot-casting,” which involves deposition of the perovskite layer at higher temperatures, leading to larger, more stable crystals. Additionally, the larger crystals allowed for a marked increase in power conversion efficiency for the solar cell, compared to conventionally prepared perovskite solar cells.
After a month of daily research and lab work, the program culminated in a symposium held at the Student Activity Center at Stony Brook University on August 8. There, at a public event with visiting scientists in attendance, every research group presented their own research to a public forum, and answered questions afterward, emulating academic symposia of scientific researchers.
Not only has the Garcia Program allowed Aidan to make progress in a field which becomes more important each day, but it also provided an excellent foster home for Aidan’s passion and interest for science over the summer. The rigorous research and experimentation have undoubtedly contributed greatly to his development as a student and a scientist.