DaRin Butz Foundation Research Scholars – Summer 2023

KAYLEIGH EXCELL

Senior in Engineering Physics

Kayleigh is a senior in the Department of Physics in The Grainger College of Engineering. She is currently completing a degree in Engineering Physics and hopes to pursue a PhD in Astrophysics post graduation.

She is a distinguished student and has been awarded with the 2021 Commonwealth Edison/Beryl Bristow Scholarship for Women in Physics and the 2022 Robert A. Stein Scholarship. She has also been a Chancellor’s Scholar, a James Scholar and a Grainger First-Year Experience Research Scholar. On campus, Kayleigh serves as the Vice President of the Society of Women in Physics and is a member of the Society of Physics Students and Women in Engineering.

Kayleigh began her research experience as a freshman in the Plasma Physics Lab, after which she transitioned to the Observational Cosmology Group. Now, as a DaRin Butz Foundation Scholar, she is researching near-Earth supernovae – specifically how many may have occurred in the past and how they may have shaped the Local Bubble neighborhood that the solar system lies in. Her dream is to someday become a university professor, so that she can continue her research in Cosmology and teach classes side by side.

PIPER FERNAU

Sophomore in Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering

Piper is a sophomore in Nuclear, Plasma & Radiological Engineering, with a concentration in Plasma and Fusion.

In addition to being a James Scholar, Piper is on the Executive Board of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) as the Outreach Chair and Women in Nuclear (WIN) as the Content Chair. Through her roles, she focuses heavily on educating the local community and other students about all things nuclear. She also works hard to eliminate misinformation and ease the community‚Äôs outlook towards nuclear power. 

As a DaRin Butz Foundation Research Scholar, Piper conducts research in the SPEC Lab group with Professor Mohan Sankaran. Her research is focused on PFAS degradation by plasma and electrochemical methods, which is something she hopes to continue in graduate school. Her dream job is to be an experimental researcher and use plasma for environmental applications.

PHYLISS WANG

Junior in Computer Science

Phyllis is a Junior in Computer Science, on track to graduate early from the Grainger College of Engineering. She plans to go to graduate school to continue research within her field.

Phyllis is really fascinated by low-level Computer Science concepts such as Computer Architecture and Systems Programming. Outside of her academic involvements, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and reading science fiction novels. She was also a Course Assistant for CS 128.

As a DaRin Butz Foundation Research Scholar, Phyllis works with Professor Saugata Ghose in the ARCANA research group studying Computer Architecture and Processing-In-Memory. She hopes that her research can make a real-world difference in the combatting the excessive usage of energy right now.

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