Rice graduate student earns Department of Energy honor

Andrea Miranda one of 52 nationwide to research thesis among national laboratory elite

Andrea Miranda

Andrea Miranda

A Rice University doctoral candidate is one of 52 nationwide selected by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science to participate in its graduate student research program.

Andrea Miranda, a fifth-year graduate student in the Rice lab of chemical engineer Rafael Verduzco, has been invited to spend six months working at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. She will be part of its Basic Energy Science group studying fundamental electrochemistry related to energy transduction, storage and corrosion.

The program allows students to do part of their graduate thesis research at a Department of Energy laboratory. Experts in the field of the proposed research at the DOE host laboratories conducted a merit-based review of the applicants. Awardees will receive a monthly stipend for living expenses while at the DOE lab, and their major travel expenses to and from the lab will be covered.

Originally from Sugar Land, Texas, Miranda earned her bachelor’s degree at Mount Holyoke College and spent a summer at Rice as part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She worked in the lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan developing a polymer separator for the paintable battery project.

“That was my first exposure to research, and I really enjoyed it,” Miranda said of her work that summer with Rice alumna Neelam Singh, who led the project. “Neelam was a wonderful mentor.”

That experience encouraged her to pursue her graduate studies at Rice. Verduzco recognized that Miranda’s summer research and her interest in energy technologies made her a good fit for his lab.

“Andrea has been testing different chemistries for conductive polymers to learn how to cross-link them and make them more elastic so they can hold everything together while maintaining their conductivity,” he said. “These materials are only 20 to 30 percent of the weight of a lithium-ion battery, but if we can optimize that part, we can make the battery more mechanically stable and increase its capacity.”

Miranda will take samples of her work to Lawrence Berkeley, where she will spend six months in the lab of electrochemist Robert Kostecki. “He’s developed equipment to look at the electrode as the battery is running, so part of my work will feature some in situ spectroscopy experiments,” she said. “We anticipate this will give us a better idea of the role a conductive binder can play in silicon anodes.”

“Andrea Miranda is an outstanding young scientist,” said Seiichi Matsuda, Rice’s dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, the E. Dell Butcher Professor of Chemistry and a professor of biosciences. “I’m pleased she will have the opportunity to further pursue her research at a DOE laboratory. We are looking forward to learning about her discoveries!”


About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.