Summer Internship Student Spotlight:

Spencer Johnson, Physics

The future is bright for one Energy Institute summer intern who is developing a new program focused on finding more efficient methods for harnessing solar energy.

Spencer Johnson, a senior majoring in physics at CSU, studies molecular spin dynamics in the Zadrozny physical inorganic chemistry lab. This summer, he’s working on a project designed to predict a molecular property called relaxation time, which may have promising potential for solar efficiency.

“When generating solar power, you can harvest excitons in either singlet or triplet states,” Johnson said. “In some materials, triplets can be much more energetically efficient. What we want to know is, can we tailor a molecule’s spin properties by changing the nuclear spin environment?”

This research is a continuation of work that Johnson has been involved with over the past two years, studying molecular behavior with potential applications in the solar industry. After graduating, Johnson plans to pursue a PhD in physics, and hopes to eventually work with a national lab or in private industry studying quantum computation.

Johnson’s advice for other students looking for research opportunities: “Get involved in research as soon as possible. It’s a great opportunity to learn from graduate students and professors with years of experience, and to find out which topics you’re passionate about,” he said. “It’s important for undergrads to realize that [Principal Investigators] really want your help, because undergraduate researchers are an important part of a well-functioning research lab.”

Johnson also encouraged students to apply for opportunities like the Energy Institute’s internship program.

“It’s incredibly important to have funding to support foundational research like this,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of all the donors of the Energy Institute that make these opportunities possible.”

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