Eli Lichtenberg: Making Better Solar Cells

Pratt Undergraduate Research Fellow Profile

How did you get interested in engineering to begin with?

I’ve always liked math and science growing up. It was always one of my relative strengths. I sort of knew I was going to go into a technical field of some sort. And I think engineering is also really good if you want to help solve problems. My Pratt Fellows research is with solar power, and I think solar power can help solve a lot of problems that society is facing today.

How did you get involved with the Pratt Fellows program?

I knew of a few people who had done the Pratt Fellows program earlier. Then in the fall semester of my junior year, everyone received an email about the Pratt Fellows program. In the email, it listed all of the professors who were participating and all of the projects they had. So you got to browse through a lot of really interesting projects that professors were looking for undergrads to work on. Just seeing that was pretty helpful in finding some projects that were interesting and getting me to sign up.

Tell me about your research project.

My project is about analyzing the internal structure of materials used for organic solar cells and finding out ways to make those materials more efficient. I use a SAXS machine, which stands for small angle x-ray scattering. The measurement I’m doing is called GWAX, which stands for grazing instance wide angle X-ray scattering. Basically what the machine does, is it shines x-rays off of a sample. And based on how the X-rays scatter off of the sample, you can make conclusions about the internal structure.

What’s it like working with your faculty advisor?

My faculty advisor is Dr. Adrienne Stiff-Roberts, and she’s been great. She’s been really supportive and I’ve learned a lot working with her and the other people in the lab. They’ve all been really helpful in getting me acclimated to the lab setting.

How has the Pratt Fellows program helped you so far?

I’ve been considering going into a PhD program, but before I commit five years to research, I wanted to get a better idea of what research is actually like. This program has been very helpful in allowing me to understand what engineering research is really like, and it’s been really interesting work as well. I’m still deciding between going right into a job and getting my master’s, and I think Pratt Fellows has been pretty helpful in allowing me to keep all of those options open and helping me decide where I want to go.