HEHS Students Conduct Research At Argonne National Laboratory as part of Exemplary Student Research Program

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Scientist Dr. Binhua Lin directs team Jill and Dillon on the monitor.

Scientist Dr. Binhua Lin directs team Jill and Dillon on the monitor.

A group of students at Hoffman Estates High School received the opportunity of a lifetime to conduct research at Argonne National Laboratory.

Hoffman Estates High School Senior Dillon Vadgama, juniors Harpreet Auby, Jill Prigge, Miraj Shah, and sophomores Allison Schrader and Matt Vlasaty, participated in the Argonne Exemplary Student Research Program (ESRP). The group was invited to use the laboratory for 24 hours to conduct research. Only 11 high schools participated in the program.

U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is home to the Advanced Proton Source (APS). The APS at Argonne provides ultra-bright, high-energy storage ring-generated x-ray beams for research in almost all scientific disciplines.

Jill and Dillon prepare trough.

Jill and Dillon prepare trough.

Under the guidance of scientists from ChemMatCARS, a national synchrotron facility dedicated to research in chemistry and materials research for the Center for Advanced Radiation Sources, University of Chicago, the students submitted a professional research proposal to use the machine. Scientists and researchers submit proposals from across the globe to work in the lab.

Proposal are rated on a scale of 1 through 5 – with a rating of 1 being the strongest and 5 being poor. HEHS’ proposal ranked 1.7 out of 5, which is a strong rating even for professionals that write proposals all the time.

After an initial meeting with scientists Dr. Binhua Lin and Dr. Yu-Sheng Chen of ChemMatCARS, the team learned about Advanced Crystallography and Liquid Surface X-Ray Scattering Facilities. The students also met Sean Griesemer, a University of Chicago undergraduate researcher, and requested to work with the Liquid Surface X-Ray Scattering.

“This is an unexplored region of physics and science, and is very close to nanotechnology,” said Miraj.

By conducting the nanoparticle research, the students are contributing to a large study that could be the foundation of future technology.

“We are figuring out the properties of a monolayer of iron oxide, and in the future engineers and scientists will figure out what its useful for and where to go with it,” said Dillon.

Jill fills Langmuir trough.

Jill fills Langmuir trough.

To work in the laboratory, students needed to learn proper safety procedures and research protocols. The students conducted eight tests, and preparation for each one was meticulous. One particle of dust or simply breathing on the film they were working with could skew their data.

Students said the experience was very informative and allowed them to apply their education to a real-world project. For many of the students, it solidified their interest in working within the science or engineering field after graduation.

“This puts into contexts how scientific knowledge can have a real-life application,” said Matt. “From an engineering standpoint, taking the data, processing it, and figuring out what application it has in the real world interests me. Working on this project has helped me develop a better sense of what science actually is and how it helps us.”

The group will be collecting their data and figuring out what it means. In May, they will attend a users meeting at Argonne where they will present their data with scientists all over the world that have used the facility.

For a more detailed account of the students’ research and experience, please read a summary from the group’s sponsor and Hoffman Estates High School Applied Technology Teacher Wayne Oras.

ChemMatCARS Sector 15 is principally supported by the Divisions of Chemistry (CHE) and Materials Research (DMR), National Science Foundation, under grant number NSF/CHE-1346572.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.