Diego Soto, a chemistry major at University of Puerto Rico and research assistant at UPR’s Molecular Sciences Research Center, is taking the switch to online learning in stride. His spring semester was conducted largely online, Diego says it was good practice for the PREM summer program.
Diego’s research group is studying the characteristics of photovoltaic cells made with titanium dioxide, in an attempt to create the most efficient material possible. In December, X-Ray absorption spectrometry was conducted at CHESS on samples collected by Diego’s mentor Dr. Vilmalí López-Mejías. This data is now being analyzed by Diego during the summer program, with the goal of determining if their product is the polymorphic phase of titanium dioxide that they want. By using X-ray absorption and extended X-ray absorption, Diego’s group believes they can determine whether or not they have a pure sample.
Diego is the kind of student who loves being in the lab and analyzing data, and would like to pursue a career as a clinical pharmacist. “I’m a very curious person,” he explained, “so I really like finding why or how some things occur. It’s something that I really like a lot.”
He has enjoyed the theoretical lectures this summer, which have focused on electro-chemistry and x-ray techniques - new and interesting topics for him. “Each workshop I get to understand a little bit more about it,” he says. He is looking forward to moving ahead from the lecture portion of the summer, and diving into the data in the next few weeks.
His favorite thing about the summer so far, outside of the lectures and research, was the recent Cornell-a-palooza, an online social event where students from across Cornell’s undergraduate research programs could meet each other and learn about their respective research projects. “I really liked it because we could interact with other students from different programs, not just my program, and their backgrounds and everything…. When I found out there were people from other backgrounds and other topics I was like, whoa! That’s really interesting!”
The PREM summer program will wrap up in the second week of August, culminating with the students presenting posters on their research.