Carnegie Mellon University

#CMUScience Spotlights

Mellon College of Science students are engaged learners and passionate researchers, constantly pursuing new knowledge in the advancement of the foundational sciences. 

Starting in the summer, MCS asked these #CMUScience students about the work they do — be it through the lab, through their research group or through their internship experiences — and shared their stories  on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

CMUScience Spotlights

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#cmuscience Spotlight: “The universe is home to many massive objects, such as stars and galaxies, which we have observed for millennia. But what makes things interesting and unknown is that some massive objects, like dark matter, cannot be observed. One way to uncover dark matter is to look at a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing — as light moves through the universe, the gravitational pull of other matter in its path bends the light, and these distortions give us an idea of how matter is dispersed throughout the universe. My research is one of the first of its kind to study observational evidence of weak gravitational lensing from the Lyman-alpha forest, which is a light spectrum that reaches us from distant galaxies and quasars, to trace the distribution of dark matter in the universe.” . . . . #cmusocial #carnegiemellon #cmu #sciencefriday #physics #research #gradstudent #darkmatter #cosmology

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#cmuscience Spotlight: Lily is interested in applying mathematics to the financial world. Her research looks at portfolio optimization through methods such as maximizing the expected value of the utility of a portfolio’s assets, and determining how factors like order size impact may affect investor decisions. In the market, there are sellers and buyers, and common stocks are be thought of as a "stack.” If there's a big enough order that goes through that stack, there might be a huge price difference on the stocks. The key is to determine the indifference price — the point at which the investment maximizes your profit without hurting your utility. Lily also interned at GEICO this summer working on data analysis, and one thing she’s intrigued by is how to clean up real world data when molding mathematical models. . Fun Fact: She’s an early morning person who likes to wake up at 4:30am and enjoys volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House downtown.

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#cmuscience Spotlight: “Sometimes 0 + 0 > 0. Feeling stumped? I felt the same way when I first tried to understand the world of quantum communication; a field of study that tries to figure out how tiny particles can be used to transmit quantum information. Information is sent via channels. Some channels are completely useless for sending any information. But somehow in this quantum world, two useless channels, when used together, become useful. I try to understand why this happens by first finding simple channels for which this effect may be observed, and then with the aid of these examples, I try to seek satisfactory explanations.” . . . #cmusocial #carnegiemellon #cmu #gradstudent #research #physics #quantumphysics

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#cmuscience Spotlight: Emily's work is in Ramsey Theory, which looks to bound the minimum size of a structure to guarantee the existence of a certain substructure. In particular, she studies various Ramsey numbers when coloring systems of triples and trying to guarantee the existence of small fixed substructures. In general, Ramsey Theory suggests that a large enough system must be nicely ordered, or that you cannot avoid certain configurations in this system. This leads to bounds on the performance of various algorithms and capacities for communication channels in computer science and information theory. • Fun Fact: I’m booth chair for the Math Club. This year, we took first place and won the Environmental Award among blitz booths.

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#cmuscience Spotlight: A lot of electronic devices — phones, tablets, laptops — rely on rechargeable batteries to keep us connected in our everyday life. Most use lithium ion batteries, which are made of lithium and carbon. This makes them lightweight and highly reactive, meaning they can store a lot of energy in a small amount of space, but they only last a few years. There has been a holy grail pursuit by scientists to find better alternatives, such as metallic lithium, which can store more than 10 times the amount of energy as current lithium ion batteries. But metals are brittle, thus limiting their use in rechargeable batteries. Sipei works to solve this problem using polymer functionalization to create a “liquid-like” form of lithium metal that would dramatically improve the performance of a lithium metal battery.

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#cmuscience Spotlight: "My research uses surface tension gradients to improve medication dispersion in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. Cystic fibrosis patients have areas of mucus blocking the lung airways. Current medicines are ineffective in getting over those blockages to reach all the places where there is an infection. To help solve this, I work with a lipid naturally found in our lungs, called DPPC. I start by placing DPPC on water in a dish, as to mimic the lung, and then add a drop of a surfactant on top. If the surfactant surface tension is lower than the DPPC monolayer, the surfactant will spread. The idea is to mix medication with a surfactant so when the medication hits the surface of the lung, it doesn’t stop at the first blockage, but the surface tension gradient will create a secondary flow that allows the medicine to bypass the mucus layer and spread to the infected areas."

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#cmuscience Spotlight: “My research is in category theory, which I like to think of as the 'mathematics of mathematics': whereas mathematics looks at the real world, identifies patterns and structures and then studies those patterns and structures, category theory does the same thing for mathematics, relating results in one area of the subject to those in seemingly unrelated areas. In the work I did for my thesis, I use the theoretical tools of category theory to identify algebraic structures in dependent type theory, which is the same kind of logical system that underlies functional programming languages.” • Fun Fact: One of the things I've enjoyed most during my time in Pittsburgh is exploring the city by bike, but Pittsburgh's abundance of potholes saw the better of me when I accidentally hit one last month — I fell off my bike and had to type my entire thesis with a broken finger.

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