The Lab has a graduate summer fellowship, the Bridge Fellowship, that encourages top first-year UC Berkeley graduate students to take part in research at the Lab during the summer providing them firsthand research experience. In the fall, as part of a capstone event, the Bridge Fellows will present their research projects. The Fellows will continue to be invited to participate in future Bridge Fellow activities at the Lab.
The fellowship program started in 2018 with the first cohort coming to the Lab in 2019. It is a collaborative effort between the Lab, UC Berkeley’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, and the Office for Graduate Diversity. Graduate advisors from a select number of departments on campus submit nominations to the Lab from the pool of applicants to the Chancellor’s Fellowship during the admissions process. The program is part of the Lab’s Career Pathways Office
This summer the fellowship was more of a challenge since the research work needed to be done without coming to the Lab.
Andrea Naranjo-Soledad (left), Energy Technologies Area, worked on two projects. One focused on creating a batch process system to produce disinfectant for use against COVID-19 in developing countries. The second project focused on removing hexavalent chromium — a known carcinogen — from contaminated groundwater. She is a Ph.D. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Berkeley. Read more about her project.
Shafeeq Ibraheem spent the summer in the Lab’s Biosciences Area studying computational neuroscience. He used machine learning methods to reduce trial-to-trial variability in neural data. This made it possible to draw meaningful interpretations from single-trial data. He is a Ph.D. student in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department at Berkeley. Read more about his research.
They shared their unique fellowship experience.
Elements: Were you still excited to receive this fellowship even though you couldn’t come to the Lab?
Andrea: Absolutely! I was looking forward to interacting with my mentor through Zoom and working on some exciting research directions, both through the study of relevant literature, and opportunities to develop new technology. When my mentor mentioned that he had a project in mind that could potentially help many people in developing countries by slowing down the spread of COVID-19, I was even more excited to work on this as a Bridge Fellow.
Shafeeq: Despite the virtual internship, I was excited to receive the Bridge Fellowship. I was very interested in the work going on in my lab and was lucky to be in a situation where I could work and learn remotely.
Elements: How did you do your work if you couldn’t come to the Lab site?
Andrea: One of my two Bridge projects aims for the design and optimization of a system that generates hypochlorous acid (HOCl) using non-hazardous materials accessible to low-income communities. We ordered these materials and performed home experiments, practically on our kitchen tables. During this work, my mentor and I also built a network of 14 researchers in nine different countries. I studied the published literature on how to improve the procedure based on past research.
Shafeeq: I was fortunate to be working on a computational project, so my work didn’t require me to be at the Lab site. I did most of my work locally and ran heavier computation on remote machines in the lab. I also met frequently with my labmates and PI over Zoom.
Elements: What was the most interesting non-science thing you learned from this experience?
Andrea: I had the opportunity to work with a graphic designer on creating a logo for this project. During our four-week long interaction, the designer taught us how small details — such as colors and shapes used in the logo — could have negative connotations in other cultures. This awareness is essential to creating an effective logo. I was pleased and surprised that I got the chance to learn this fascinating and unexpected non-science dimension of tech-transfer.
Shafeeq: This is somewhat science-related, but one thing I found interesting was the range of diverse, impactful work being done at the Lab. Over the course of the summer, I had the opportunity to attend talks given by several Lab scientists. It was enlightening to hear about the world-class research being done at the Lab, in physics, biology, engineering, and more.