MSE Undergraduate Student Receives a Research Aide Appointment with Argonne National Laboratory

By: Katie Nejati, Student Written Communications Assistant

photo of Samuel Schaefer, MSE senior and research aide at Argonne National Laboratory conducting ground truth labeling for AI recognition of irradiation defects

Samuel Schaefer, MSE senior and research aide at Argonne National Laboratory conducting ground truth labeling for AI recognition of irradiation defects

Samuel Schaefer, working alongside members of MSE Assistant Professor Yuanyuan Zhu’s Electron Microscopy Group, uses transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to study problems of importance to electrical power generation and its impacts on the environment and human health. As part of a collaboration between Dr. Zhu’s research group and staff scientists at the IVEM-Tandem Facility at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Schaefer has been offered a Research Aide Appointment. Using TEM techniques combined with machine learning, his work will focus on improving our understanding of the effects of irradiation on materials used in nuclear reactors. He believes that the different settings for collaboration offered by the position at ANL will provide him with new perspectives on research that will be useful as he moves forward in his career.

Schaefer’s project currently focuses on training a machine-learning algorithm to identify and track defects in irradiated nickel samples. The defects can be imaged in real time at nanometer length scales as they form, move, and disappear utilizing in-situ TEM experiments conducted during a reaction process. His task is to go through consecutive images acquired during the process and annotate the defects observed within them to generate a set of ground truth labels. Other members of the research group will then use these labels to train a program to recognize particular defects in these and other images. Working in collaboration with ANL scientists Dr. Meimei Li and Dr. Wei-Ying Chen, the goal is to improve the current state of understanding of factors controlling the formation of defects in structural materials used in nuclear reactor cores.

Now a fourth-year MSE undergraduate student, Schaefer plans to continue his work on materials for energy applications, and hopes to enter a PhD program next year. He has been passionate about  issues surrounding energy and the environment since he began his undergraduate studies, and this passion attracted him to pursue a degree in MSE. He notes that the numerous opportunities available in MSE for conducting research has enhanced his undergraduate experience. “Doing undergraduate research with Dr. Zhu has helped me further my studies in a laboratory setting” he said. Expressing appreciation for the opportunities provided by his research mentors in MSE and at ANL, his career aspirations have grown, and ultimately, he hopes to pursue a career in energy technology that will benefit people in their everyday lives.

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