University of Texas at Austin

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The Moncrief Summer Interns of 2024

By Rebecca Riley

Published July 3, 2024

A group of interns enjoyed bowling at the campus Union.

Every summer, the Moncrief Undergraduate Internship Program welcomes students from all over the country to conduct research alongside the faculty of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences. During this ten week program, interns delve into the cutting edge of computational science and engineering. 

This year's 11 Moncrief Interns are engaged in a variety of research activities, focusing on developing modeling and simulation methods to solve complex problems in fields ranging from energy and the environment to advanced materials and biomedical engineering, and more. 

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From l-r: Sophia Cavanaugh, Cade Dulaney, and Arushi Sadam get acquainted at the welcome breakfast.

Sam Queralt, a mathematics major at UT Austin who will graduate in May 2025, was inspired to apply for the Moncrief Internship by a friend's recommendation. Guided by Professor Kevin Clarno, Sam has been involved in nuclear fuel burnup analysis. Reflecting on his journey, Sam shared, "Before I got here, I was purely involved with math and computer science. Since then, I have learned a lot about nuclear energy and modeling. It is amazing to see how my math degree permeates into other fields."

Sam and his fellow interns moved into San Jacinto Dorm on June 2, their home for the summer. In the weeks since then, they have been diving into research projects.

Hurley Qi, a computer science and mathematics major at UT Austin, shared his reasons for applying. “I am exploring the possibilities of graduate school and have always enjoyed interdisciplinary research. I applied for this internship because it offers a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to explore academic research at an advanced level with excellent guidance from professors. Additionally, it allows students to explore how their field of study intersects with other related fields, which can potentially lead to innovative research results.”

Hurley has been working with Dr. Joshua Chang, focusing on applying machine learning and mathematical models to NICU clinical data to forecast patients’ health. “Through this internship, I’ve been able to preliminarily explore some mathematical and physics research related to Chaos Theory, as well as financial research related to stock market forecasting. I have enjoyed all aspects of it.”

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Hurley Qi talking with Oden Institute Faculty Member Ernesto Lima.

Olivia Castillo, a physics honors and Plan II major at UT Austin, has been equally enthusiastic about her experience. “I joined Don Siegel's lab in January, and he recommended I apply to the Moncrief internship. I am so glad I did because I love getting to work on my research full-time! I have made so much progress.”

This summer’s schedule is packed with enriching activities, from the welcome breakfast and coffee hours to workshops on graduate school, academic publishing, and poster design. Social events, including bowling and board game nights, have fostered a sense of community among the interns.

“I like the cohort and enjoy the social activities,” said Olivia. “We recently went bowling, and even though I lost pretty badly, it was fun playing with other interns and getting a break from work. My favorite part was definitely the lunch with the Director of the Oden Institute, Karen Willcox. I loved getting to know her personally and receiving advice from someone so successful.”

Olivia is studying materials science, specifically the paddlewheel effect in solid ion conductors to better understand what makes good materials for solid-state batteries. “I like computational material science as a field because it is so broad, there are so many opportunities for positive social impact, and I get to apply abstract concepts that I learn in my physics classes.”

Cade Dulaney, an applied mathematics major at Texas A&M, shared his journey to the Moncrief Internship. “I was fortunate to work with Dr. Yankeelov and his lab last summer. We kept in touch, and he reached out to me with a link to the Moncrief Internship. After reading through the description, I discovered how amazing this opportunity could be. I learned very quickly how unique the Oden Institute was; a program that brings together experts from across disciplines to collaborate on cutting-edge research. As an applied mathematician with no clear path but a desire to apply math to whatever areas I find interesting, this stood out to me.”

Cade has continued his research with Dr. Yankeelov, developing and refining a model capable of predicting how tumors respond to various treatments. “This summer, I am applying Optimal Control Theory to find how much radiation and immunotherapy should be given, as well as when it should be given, to reduce a patients tumor and give them the best possible chance at a healthy life. The work is fascinating, challenging, and invigorating. There are days I forget to eat lunch because I get so focused on what I'm doing.”

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Interns toured the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) VisLab located at the Oden Institute.

As July turns into August, the Moncrief Interns will begin to prepare research poster presentations on their summer work. The 2024 cohort will present its progress at a research poster session on August 8th, capped off with a celebratory reception. 

As these students wrap up their time in the Moncrief Internship and embark on their fall semester, they will likely carry with them the excitement and sense of purpose they discovered here at the Oden Institute. 

Olivia Castillo reflected, "I have obviously gained a lot of knowledge in my research area, but through the Summer Research Scholars workshops and by conducting research full-time, I learned that I definitely want to pursue research as a career. I love it!"

Future Moncrief Interns can learn about the program here.