Greetings to those who may be reading!  My name is Lucas Zeppetello, I’m a rising junior applied physics major at Columbia University.  I feel very privileged to be a part of Columbia’s STEP (Science and Technology Engineering Program) this summer, which is a program designed by Columbia’s Center for Career Education (CCE) so that students like me can enhance their summer internships or job opportunities in engineering-related fields.  This summer, I will be working in Columbia’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to get started this Monday.  My job is to design, build, and test a turbulence suppression circuit; basically I need to design an electronic device to act as an intermediary between a measuring tool and an actuator inside the CTX, which is one of the plasma experiments being studied in the lab.  The principle investigator whom I have the honor of working under is Francesco Volpe, a professor in the Applied Physics Department here at Columbia.  I contacted him through the SEAS undergraduate research portal in April, and he offered me the position.  I don’t know too much about the physics of plasmas, but I did build circuits in high school electronics classes, so hopefully that experience will pay off this summer.  I am both nervous and excited about starting work in the lab, but whatever happens, I’m sure that this summer is going to be a hugely positive learning experience, so I really can’t go wrong.

Another great aspect of the STEP is that students get access to CCE’s mentor database made by at the beginning of the summer.  I was given the freedom to contact anybody in that database who I thought would be a informative and helpful summer mentor, and I contacted Dr. Judah Cohen, the director of seasonal forecasting at a meteorology research company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  I was visiting family friends in the Boston area over Memorial Day Weekend and was able to meet up with Dr. Cohen on MIT’s campus.  What an incredible gift made possible by the STEP program!  Dr. Cohen and I spoke for over an hour, during which he told me about his path to his current position and gave me advice for navigating the next few years in terms of applying to graduate school and developing my scientific interests by exposing myself to different professors and their research projects.

This is my first research position and I couldn’t be more thankful for Professor Volpe for giving me this opportunity.  I’ve been reading articles about this kind of technology ever since I was given the position, but final exams put a significant dent in my preparation time.  This weekend I’m probably going to head to the library for a few hours just to make sure I can really hit the ground running on day one.  That’s really all for now, I’m going to try to update this blog at least once a week to let the internet know how everything is going.  Thanks for reading!