Brock scholar Tim Haley’s summer internship gave him valuable experience as both a science researcher and a full-time employee. Haley, a sophomore physics major from Springfield, Tennessee, was selected to participate in a prestigious summer research program with Tennessee Solar Conversion using Outreach, Research, and Education (TN-SCORE) at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I worked as an undergraduate student researcher under the guidance of a graduate student. Not only did I learn about designing and implementing experiments, but also what it’s like to be in the ‘real world.’ This internship was like a full-time job. I had to be at work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday every week. It gave me valuable experience in what life is like after college,” Haley said.
TN-SCORE is an alternative energy research grant involving nine universities across Tennessee. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation.
“My research involved working with molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), a mineral that’s black and silvery in color. It’s similar to graphite, which is what you find in the lead of a pencil. MoS2 is primarily used a dry lubricant for industrial equipment. In my work, I was trying to discover if MoS2 can increase the efficiency of cells used for solar energy,” Haley said.
Haley researched the mechanical exfoliation process of MoS2. The exfoliation process involves separating MoS2 into thin sheets about one molecule in width. Haley would then try to synthesize and replicate the sheets to create a large uniform area of the substance.
“For MoS2 to be used in consumer products, like solar energy, it has to be economical to make. If you can’t make it on a large scale, it won’t be cost-effective,” Haley said.
For Haley, this internship provided him worthwhile experience to supplement his college education.
“I learned how to develop my own experiment. In class, your labs are already planned for you. You just follow the instructions. At my internship, I learned how to discover something myself, which is a critical skill to have in the science field,” he said.
Haley’s career goal is to attend graduate school and become a college professor.
“To get into graduate school, you often have to take an extra step. This was getting my foot in the door with research. It was a great experience. This research was on the frontline of discovery. It’s helping to break ground,” he said.